Fred Willard played Frank Dunphy across the sitcom's 11 seasons

By Eric Todisco
January 16, 2020 07:16 PM
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Modern Family has said goodbye to a beloved character.

On Wednesday’s episode, titled “Legacy,” Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) shared one final goodbye with his father Frank (Fred Willard), who died of old age.

Viewers learned in the episode that Frank was found wandering a grocery store alone, which prompted Phil to grow concerned that his father was suffering from dementia.

When Phil gave Frank a haircut and questioned him about the grocery store incident, he also asked if Frank ever wanted to have another child.

“If you had another kid, maybe he would have taken over the business and you wouldn’t have had to sell it,” Phil said. “I always feel bad that I didn’t.”

“The answer is no, Phil, never,” Frank replied. “Well, you did take over the family business, didn’t you? Keeping life light, making it fun for everybody.”

With a smile on his face, Phil said to his dad, “I learned from the best.”

The show then cut to a confessional of Phil: “When I was growing up, he was the cool dad. He knew all the dances from Grease and he knew all the expressions. BFF: best friends forever, TMI: too much Information, BJ: blue jeans. Makes me feel lucky. ”

“We didn’t do much that day, but it might have been one of the best days I’ve ever had with my dad,” he added. “I just didn’t know it would be the last.”

Richard Cartwright/ABC

In the next scene, the family — including Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen) — was gathered together as Phil made an emotional eulogy in honor of his late father.

“My dad was okay, and my takeaway from our day was, don’t miss the chance to let the people you appreciate know that,” he said.

Willard, 80, played Frank for 14 episodes across all 11 seasons. In 2010, the role garnered Willard an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series.

His character’s death is the second to come from the series in the last two seasons. In season 10, the show killed off Claire and Mitchell’s mom, DeDe (Shelley Long).

BOB D'AMICO/ABC

Last week, ABC announced that the show will air its series farewell episode on April 8.

The sitcom, which premiered in 2009 and has run for 11 seasons, has won five Emmys for outstanding comedy series.

“I will probably miss the people the most, from Modern,” star Sarah Hyland previously told PEOPLE of what she will miss the most about the show. “Our crew is amazing and, of course, I love our cast, they are very special people.”

Modern Family airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.