The Death of Will Geer, Ellen Corby, & Ralph Waite from The Waltons

Will Geer, Ellen Corby, and Ralph Waite & The Waltons

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Ellen Corby
June 3, 1911 – April 14, 1999
“Go Fish today and Poker tomorrah! The evils of gambling can put downroots in shallow ground!”

Will Greer
March 9, 1902 – April 22, 1978
“You can’t own a mountain any more than you can own an ocean or apiece of the sky. You hold it in trust. You live on it, you take like from it,and once you’re dead, you rest in it.”

Okay, I am setting myself up ridicule now, but I have to admit that Ilove TheWaltons. The show has an uncanny ability to make me well up, every single time Iwatch. I’m afraid that this story is very much about me, so please accept my apology forthe self-indulgence. The Waltons was a regular television series from 1972 to 1981, andthey’ve had about a thousand reunion shows since then.

Will Geer played Grandpa Walton. He was living in a small bungalow in Hollywood onStanley. 

His home was in anunusual place called the “LittleVillage,” 

at number 1334. 

Here’s the house. 

While the showwas on hiatus, Will had suffered a stroke, and three weeks later, on April 22nd of 1978, Will “checked out,” atMidway Hospital, on SanVicente, in LA. 

He was 76 years old, was a confirmed bi-sexual, and wasalso married twice.  Not that this hasanything to do with being gay, but he took to mooning the cast on manyoccasions.  Did you know that his daughter Ellen was “Sunshine Doray”in Harold and Maude?  True.

They wrote his death into the next season of the show, and it was a gut wrencher. Mr.Geer was cremated, and his ashes are in the Will Geer Theatricam Botanicum (Whatevericum) in TopangaCanyon. 

On the show, they buried him on the mountain.

Update, Nov 99 – Thanks to Findadeath friend MelanieYoung for the following info on the Theatricam.  “While Will Geer didgo in to acting, he did finish college and also received a masters degree inBotany from Columbia University.  During the McCarthy blacklisting era, herefused to testify before a congressional committee and was thereforeblacklisted as well.  He ended up supporting his family via gardening andsuch.

They have an amphitheater where they performShakespearian plays and he planted a formal Shakespearian garden there, and manyof those plants are plants that are mentioned in various Shakespeareplays.”

THAT’S why Will is planted in the garden.  Thanksfor the info, Melanie.

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Since 1976, Ellen Corby lived in the home of her friend StellaLuchetta, on Harratt Street, in LA. 

Their house was at 9026. 

She also had a passion for lady bugs.  This next story will haunt me till my death. A few years back, I wasvisiting LA, and paid a visit to Ms. Corby. I bought a huge bouquet of flowers and went tothe front door. I knew where she lived, because she answered a fan letter that I sent herin the past. I got to the front door, and Mrs. Luchetta answered. Very suspiciously, Imight add, but who could blame her? Anyway, through the peephole she asked what I wanted,and I told her I was an Ellen Corby fan, and wanted to give her flowers. After a fewminutes of trying to convince her that I wasn’t psychotic, she took the flowers, and toldme to come back tomorrow, and I could meet Ellen. Cool.  Grandma Waltonin the flesh! Well, stupid me, I was heading back East the next day, and since I didn’tknow the cemeteries at ALL, a friend offered to show me around, so,I blew off Ellen. I KNOW! It was the worst thing I could do, but Iwanted to go grave hunting SO bad. Anyway, upon my arrival home, I wrote off a note ofapology to Ms. Corby, and this wasthe response I received from Mrs. Luchetta. 

Feel guilty much? Gawd. Enoughabout that, here are the Ellen facts.

Ellen had a stroke in 1976, and it was written into the show. When the showceased production, Ellen spent her time watching The Waltons reruns, andlogging them diligently in a book. She waited around, and inevitably, they would wheel herin for reunion specials. It was great to see her, because it never could bethe same without her, but she was reduced to cameos, and mumbling a few mono syllabicET-esque lines.

A few weeks before she died, Ellen was moved intothe Motion Picture Country Home, in Calabasis, CA. 

According to new Findadeath friend and Walton fanJason, on her last day, Stella bought Ellen a Cobb salad from Mirabelle’s onSunset.  It was her favorite restaurant.  Ellen at about 3/4 of it,and decided to rest, so she sent Stella on her way.  Her last words to Stella were, “Love you.”  Ellen died later that evening, April 18th, 1999. She was 87. 

Ellenwas cremated, and is interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest LawnGlendale.  There was no funeral, but a small memorial service attended byMichael Learned, Lynn Hamilton (Verdie on the show), a few Walton’s fans, and Earl Hamner.  Earl wrote Ellen a Walton’s scene,special for the occasion, and sealed it in her niche.  I thought that was avery sweet gesture.

Tom and CarlaMurrell, grave hunters extraordinaire, donated this shot of her grave. Thanks guys.

I hope they are happy, wherever they are.

Ralph Waite
June 22, 1928 – February 13, 2014
“It’s always nice to take on the impossible now and then.”

“Pa”Walton in 196 episodes of the television show The Waltons (1971 – 1981).  Healso directed quite a few episodes.  His character John Walton was voted3rd in TV Guide’s
50Greatest TV Dads of All Time

Hewas also in the movies CoolHand Luke,FiveEasy Pieces,TheBodyguardand Cliffhanger.

Healso attended the Yale School of Divinity and was a minister for 3 years.

Heran for congress twice, unsuccessfully.  He attempted to take over the seatvacated by Sonny Bono when he bashed in his head, but lost to (Ugh) Sonny’swidow.  By most accounts, a monster.

Hestruggled with being a dipsomaniac.  A friend said, “He was stillboozing heavily when he took the job just for the money, but he ended up lovingthe role.  He knew there was no way he could do the show while he wasdrinking. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to kick his addiction and getsober.”

Atthe time of his death he was married to Linda East.

Hewas living in this home Palm Desert

(Thankyou Kim Eazell for the snaps!)

Ralphdied in the Eisenhower Medical Center in Riverside.

Hewas 85.

Imagetaken from their website

Cause of death: CardiacArrhythmia, Ischemic Cardiomyopathy, Coronary Artery Disease. He also hadprostate cancer and bladder cancer.

DeathCertificate courtesy of Kevin Hassell

Ralph was cremated and sentback east to Westchester County, NY.

He is buried with Sharon Waite,his daughter who died of leukemia at the age of 9.

Ginny on the scene! My friend”cousins” Ginny and Phil Michaels were on the scene.

Wannasee his mailbox?

NOW, onto the others. No deaths, but some embarrassing situations, fersher.

Judy Norton Taylor played Mary EllenWalton. She posed nude forPlayboy, in August of 1985. 

I airbrushed out the bush, but lets justsay, she could have used a clip. I wrote her a fan letter, and she wrote me backand signed an autograph – back when it was still fun to collect autographs, andyou didn’t have to throw 30 bucks at someone..

I did meet Michael Learnedonce. She was very sweet, but she had a yip yip dog named Paloma with her. Super super sweet lady.  I love her. 

Richard “John Boy” Thomas still acts. I loved him inIT. He comesback to do the reunions now, even though he quit the show after five years. He recentlymarried again. He divorced the mother of his son, and triplet daughters. 

Does anyone knowwhat happened to Robert Wightman, who replaced Thomas in the show? I can’t come up withanything, and someone told me he’s dead. Anyone??  

Update:Nov 99 – Findadeath friend Glen Ivory let me know that Robert Wightman was inthe 1993 film Stepfather 3.  He took over the role originated by TerryO’Quinn in the first two installments of that series of fine cinematictriumphs.  Thanks for the info, Glen!

John Walmsley who portrayed Jason,played guitar with Richard Marx for awhile. Now hewrites music with his wife (who he married on the show, though I don’t remember her name,and I don’t really care).

UPDATE December 2004, from Findadeath friendJennifer:

John Walmsley, who portrayed Jason, was the voice of Christopher Robin in the original “Winnie the Pooh” shorts, that was strung together to become the movie, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.”  They needed a little English boy, Walmsley was it.  THought that this would be a cheery bit of trivia to share.

Jenn (Who should be working! =) )

Thanks, Jennifer!

Mary McDonough played Erin. Sheshows up in more television than any of them, I think. She does occasional stints on Entertainment Tonight, whenever they do anything on The Waltons. Following in thefootsteps of her television sister, she recently went topless in a film, One OfThese Nights. We’re guessing it’s a straight to video flick.

Ben was played by Eric Scott. He lost his wife, shortly after she gave birth to theironly child. Truly sad. He is now a vice president of a messenger service in LA.

Kami Cotler played Elizabeth. She teaches now. According to a Findadeath friend, Ms. Cotler is married and living in Nelson County, Virginia, the county in which the town of Schuyler is located (along with the Walton’s Museum, directly up the road from Earl Hamner’s boyhood home). She teaches drama at Nelson County High School, and recently gave birth to her first child, a daughter, at a hospital in Charlottesville (she does not live there, however). Ms. Cotler attributes her choice to live in the county where Hamner grew up to her visits there when she was on the show. She and her husband live on a rural farm. 


David Harper played Jim Bob. He was a scenic painter for awhile, and I hear he wentthrough some intense “Child Star” type of psychotherapy. Good on him. Don’t needany more Dana Plato’s, do we?

Trivia: Did you know that Walton’s Mountain is actually the mountain range just acrossfrom Warner Bros. Studios? Here’swhat it really looks like.

More Trivia: I took the Warner Bros. Tour a few years ago, and they were redoing theWalton’s house, for another film. Here’s what it looked like.

Finally, here is my magnum opus.Mycast photo of The Waltons, signed by them all (‘cept for Mr. Geer, but I didacquire his), including Earl Hamner.

This information was sent in by Findadeath.comfriend Glen Ivory:  “Here is some more info on The Waltons. Before the show finished, Ralph Waite directed, wrote and acted in On the Nickel, a movie about scummers living on skid row. Since the show ended his most prominent appearances have been in The Bodyguard and Cliffhanger.

Mary Beth McDonough had the lead female role in a stalk ‘n slash horror film called Mortuary. I’m sure you like that title.

Also, an update on Michael Wightman – His most recent roles have been in the movies Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight and Poodle Springs. Thanks Glen!

GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS from friendRandy Clayton.  He has achieved one of my life ambitions, to make it toSchuyler, VA to see the Walton’s museum.  Here is the real Walton/Hamnerhouse, where the author and his family grew up.  

Here is the localschool, which houses the museum,

 and here is the localgift shop, where you can buy all the Walton presents you are going to sendme.

June 2006 – This is John from MS. About threeyears ago and friend and I took an impromptu road trip to Schuyler, VA, to the Walton’smuseum. It was a 20 hour drive from MS but well worth it. The picture is me withthe original radio from the show. 

If I remember correctly the museum guidetold us the set for the show burned years ago and and they are not many itemsleft. The radio, Erin’s wedding dress and the Baldwin sisters still are in themuseum. If you have not been there it is a great museum. It is in the old schoolthe Hamner family attended. Only about 1/2 a mile from the Hamner home. Oneof the brothers of Earl Hamner was on the porch and waved to us as we left. I wouldlove to go back one day and spend more time  Thanks John, that isreally neat.

That’s it. I hope that I don’t come off as boastful, I honestly don’t mean to. It’smore like, “Isn’t this stuff cool?!” I adored this show.

AddedJanuary 2015: Themost recent incarnation of the Walton home is on the Warner Ranch in Burbank.


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