Jerry Van Dyke, Coach Star and Dick Van Dyke's Younger Brother, Dead at 86
Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of actor Dick Van Dyke best known for his role on Coach, has died at the age of 86, PEOPLE can confirm
Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of actor Dick Van Dyke best known for his role on Coach, has died at the age of 86, his rep confirms to PEOPLE.
The actor passed Friday at his Arkansas ranch with wife Shirley by his side, TMZ reported. Shirley told the website that Jerry’s health had been deteriorating over the years, after a car accident they were involved in back in 2015.
He was last seen on the small screen on ABC’s The Middle, in the recurring role as Tag Spence — the father of Patricia Heaton‘s character. Jerry first appeared on the show’s second season and appeared in eight episodes total. His last episode, airing in 2015, had a very special guest: Jerry’s brother Dick (playing Tag’s brother, naturally).
Heaton remembered Jerry on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
“Much love to my wonderful TV dad #jerryvandyke and condolences to my TV dad-in-law #dickvandyke,” she wrote. “Jerry, you were hilarious and terrifically talented – what an honor to be able to watch up close as you and your brother create your special magic. Rest In Peace Jerry…”
It was a full-circle moment as Dick was the one who actually gave Jerry his first big acting credit, casting Jerry as Dick’s on-screen brother during a 1962 gust spot on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Jerry, a stand-up comedian who had performed on military bases around the world as a member of the Air Force, would go on to book gigs on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Judy Garland Show. He even emceed a game show: 1963’s Picture This.
Despite having the same happy-go-lucky stammer that made his brother Dick a huge star in the ’60s, Jerry struggled to find the same break-out success. He famously turned down the title role in 1964’s Gilligan’s Island, and would go on to make a sea of one-season TV sitcoms from then on.
It wasn’t until 1989 that he would find his biggest part, playing defensive coordinator Luther Van Dam in ABC’s Coach. The show, which followed Craig T. Nelson as head coach of the fictional Division I-A college football team the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles, would go on to air for nine season and rack up a total of 200 episodes. Jerry earned four consecutive Emmy nominations for his role on the shpw.
In the early 2000s, he often guest starred on Yes, Dear as well.
Born and raised in Danville, Illinois, Jerry is six years younger than Dick. He married twice and had three children — one of which, Kelly Van Dyke, died via suicide in 1991.