Best known for The Waltons, Ralph Waite has died at the age of 85. His co-stars have had nothing but positivity for the man they called their husband and father.
The last actor played the role of John Walton Sr. on the hit show that ran from 1972 until 1981. His on-screen wife Olivia was played by Michael Learned. She expressed her grief, saying that the actor was a “loving mentor” and role-model. He worked all the way up to his death and was “at the top of his game.”
On-screen daughter Erin, played by Mary McDonough, also took the chance to express her sadness at losing her “precious ‘papa’ Walton. She finished her statements with “goodnight daddy. I love you.” The Waltons ended with the family saying goodnight as the lights were turned off.
Waite was more recently in popular military crime detective drama NCIS. The 85-year-old played the father of Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon. A joint statement was released by the whole cast and crew of the crime TV series, which is in its 11th season. They expressed their sadness at the news of the actor’s passing and expressed how much he was like family to the team. Series regular, Pauley Perrette took to Twitter to express her own condolences, saying how much the NCIS team loved him.
There has been no confirmation of how 85-year-old Waite died as of yet. All Alan Mills, his manager, would confirm was that he had passed away.
The actor’s TV career only really started by chance. He had already built a successful actor career on the New York stage, when he was asked to star in The Waltons. Initially refusing, his agent at the time advised him that it would at least give him some money and he could then go back to his stage career. Unenthusiastically, Waites took the role and remained on the show until the very end, which included nine season and six movies.
When The Waltons premiered, it was up agaist two very popular TV shows on ABC and NBC. CBS wanted to compete with the NBC comedy and ABC drama. Within two years, the two previous shows were removed from the air and the show expected to be buried proved to be successful.
The show had a relatively simple premise surrounding the rural family, with John Walton Jr., known as John-Boy, at the forefront. John-Boy was the eldest of seven children and wanted to make it as a writer. Waite, as John Walton Sr., proved to be the courageous and wise patriarch of the family. He would provide for his children by hunting for food, but was against hunting for sport.
John Sr. was voted number three in the poll of the “50 Greatest Dads of All Time,” and the Walton family was used as an example as how President George Bush wanted to make all American families.
Waite’s death at the age of 85 is a shock to many, but he will be forever remembered as the kind “God-fearing” father by his former co-stars.
By Alexandria Ingham