The two starred as mother and son on the hit comedy Alice

By Jodi Guglielmi
December 11, 2019 04:35 PM
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Alice actress Linda Lavin is mourning the death of her former costar, Philip McKeon.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Lavin, 83, reflected on the “deep” connection she shared with Philip on the set of Alice, remembering him as a “wondrous boy.”

“Philip was the endearing, loving boy, always willing and eager to connect with others,” she said. “Although we were performing a show, the dynamic of creating that relationship made our connection very real and deep. He taught me how to be a good mom, just by being the wondrous boy he was.”

The hit 1970s comedy starred Lavin as a widowed mother and aspiring actress working as a waitress in Phoenix while raising her preteen son, played by Philip. Alice ran for nine seasons from 1976-1985.

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The CBS sitcom was based on Martin Scorsese’s 1974 rom-com Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, in which Alfred Lutter played the titular character Alice Hyatt’s son Tommy. However, Philip replaced Lutter after the pilot.

Philip, 55, died Tuesday morning in Texas after a battle with a long illness, his spokesman Jeff Ballard confirmed to PEOPLE.

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“We are all beyond heartbroken and devastated over Phil’s passing,” Ballard said. “His wonderful sense of humor, kindness and loyalty will be remembered by all who crossed his path in life.”

Philip is the older brother of Facts of Life actress Nancy McKeon.

Following his role on Alice, Philip worked at Los Angeles station KFWB News 98 in its news department for 10 years before later moving to Wimberly, Texas, where he hosted his own radio show and relocated to be closer to family.

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Charlie Sheen honored Philip, his costar in an episode of the 1980s NBC anthology series Amazing Stories, on Twitter Tuesday.

“Shared some wonderful moments in the ‘trenches’ with Phil McKeon many moons ago,” wrote Sheen, 54. “Over the past few decades, he was always a perfect gentleman and an ebullient spirit.”

Philip is survived by Nancy and his mother, Barbara.