Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of Dick Van Dyke and longtime sitcom actor who starred on Coach and The Middle, died Friday at the age of 86.
Van Dyke’s wife Shirley told TMZ that the comedian died Friday at their Hot Springs, Arkansas ranch, adding that his health had steadily deteriorated following a car accident two years ago. The Van Dyke family also confirmed the actor’s death to WCAI, a CBS affiliate in Illinois; Jerry and Dick Van Dyke were both natives of Danville, Illinois.
After starting his career as a standup comedian – including stops on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Judy Garland Show – Van Dyke landed on a part-time role on the influential Dick Van Dyke Show, playing the fictional younger brother to his real-life brother’s character.
Van Dyke would soon launch 50-year career on television that included sitcom roles and frequent guest appearances on both Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and David Letterman’s Late Show.
Van Dyke also infamously turned down the role of Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island – “I never turned down anything but Gilligan’s Island,” he told the Associated Press in 1994. “I needed the work. But if I had it all to do over again… I definitely would have turned things down.” – after deeming the script “the worst thing I’d ever read.” He instead went on to star on sitcoms like My Mother the Car and Accidental Family.
After dozens of television appearances over the following decades, Van Dyke landed his most memorable role as Luther Van Dam on Coach, playing the assistant coach and comedic foil to Craig T. Nelson’s titular character. Coach ran for nine seasons and nearly 200 episodes from 1989 to 1997, with Van Dyke receiving four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the role.
Van Dyke would later land reoccurring roles as a grandfather figure on sitcoms like The Middle and Yes, Dear. The actor’s death comes just a week after Rose Marie, another Dick Van Dyke Show veteran, died at the age of 94.