Jerry Van Dyke, a boisterous performer who found his comedy niche later in life, passed away today. According to the New York Times, his death was confirmed by his widow, Shirley Ann Jones. Van Dyke had not returned to full health since a traffic accident in 2015.
Jerry was the fun-loving and outgoing younger brother of famed Dick Van Dyke who was oft touted as the more dignified actor. He never quite achieved the level of fame as his older brother with bits in shows such as the short-lived, My Mother The Car. It wasn’t until 1989 when Jerry was cast as the not quite intelligent but so damn lovable Luther Van Dam on ABC’s Coach, the role that garnered him 4 Emmy noms. Alongside Craig T. Nelson, the two were football coaches for the fictitious Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles.
Born in Danville, Illinois back in 1931 to a homemaker mother and traveling salesman father. Being roughly 5 years younger than brother Dick, they both started their careers as comics with gigs in night clubs. This popularity also took him on tours for the Air Force and brief roles in 50’s shows including The Andy Griffith Show and Perry Mason. The 1960s and 70s brought fewer TV gigs but plenty of club appearances. After Coach completed its run from 1989-1997, Mr. Van Dyke appeared on other sitcoms including a siblings feature on The Middle alongside brother Dick.
Mr. Van Dyke married first in the mid-1950s to Carol Johnson that ended in a 1974 divorce. He then married current wife Shirley Ann Jones. Jerry had two children from his first marriage and two grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter in 1991.
“I am incredibly sad to hear of Jerry’s passing,” said Nelson, Van Dyke’s costar in Coach. “He was such a brilliant comedian and we had a great time working together on ‘Coach’. It is just devastating news. My thoughts and prayers are with Shirley and the family.”