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Comedian and actor Jerry Van Dyke, longtime Arkansas resident, dies at 86

By Emma Pettit

This article was originally published January 6, 2018 at 2:38 p.m. Updated January 6, 2018 at 3:33 p.m.


FILE — Jerry Van Dyke talks with the Arkansas Walk of Fame crowd during an induction ceremony Saturday, October 17, 2009. (The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen)

Famed funny man Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of Dick Van Dyke who spent years living at a Hot Spring County ranch home, has died, his widow told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Shirley Van Dyke said she and her husband were in a car accident two-and-a-half years ago.

“That car accident, it just destroyed our lives,” Shirley Van Dyke said.

In the aftermath, Jerry Van Dyke spent seven months hospitalized, and his health deteriorated until he passed away Friday in Arkansas, his wife said. He was 86. The couple never had children together, though Jerry Van Dyke had children from a previous marriage.

“We never wanted to stop and be tied down,” Shirley Van Dyke said.

The comedian made his debut on The Dick Van Dyke Show and is best known for his role on Coach, on which he played Assistant Coach Luther Van Dam.

Jerry Van Dyke was born in Danville, Ill. and served in the U.S. Air Force before becoming a regular on The Judy Garland Show, according to Encyclopedia Arkansas.

After that stint, Van Dyke toured the country as a stand-up comic.

“He loved making people laugh. That was his life,” Shirley Van Dyke said.

Shirley Van Dyke, an Arkansas native, remembered spotting her eventual husband for the first time 47 years ago while he was on tour near her hometown.

“Oh my god he was handsome,” she said. “His blue eyes, blue cashmere sweater.”

“He was Mr. Hollywood. He was from another planet,” she added.

The couple worked together for their entire relationship, Shirley Van Dyke said.

She sang, and one song, in particular, was her husband’s favorite: “I Remember You.” He particularly loved the line, “And the angels ask me to recall the thrill of it all.”

Shirley Van Dyke was Jerry Van Dyke's manager when he landed Coach and performed on other television shows, she said.

“I handled all the details, and he got the laughs,” she said.

The couple built their Hot Spring County residence on the hundreds of acres where Shirley Van Dyke grew up. They also owned a home in Mexico, where they’d fly in the summers, she said.

In 1996, the couple purchased a city block in Benton and renovated it, according to Encyclopedia Arkansas. On that block is the Royal Theater, a performance hall for live acting, which the couple gave to a local theater troupe.

Read Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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