Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of actor Dick Van Dyke and a four-time Emmy nominee, died Friday in Arkansas. He was 86.
Jerry’s wife, Shirley Ann Jones, told the New York Times that his health had deteriorated since a traffic accident in 2015.
Van Dyke was best known for his role as Assistant Coach Luther Van Dam on ABC’s “Coach,” which earned him four Emmy nominations.
Jerry Van Dyke made his television acting debut on The Dick Van Dyke Show with several guest appearances as Rob Petrie’s brother, Stacey, a role he had to audition for.
Van Dyke was born in Danville, Illinois, in 1931 to Hazel Victoria (née McCord; 1896–1992), a stenographer, and Loren Wayne “Cookie” Van Dyke (1898–1976), a salesman. He was of Dutch, English, and Scottish descent. His mother was a Mayflower descendant.
Van Dyke pursued his stand-up comedy career while still in Danville High School, and was already a veteran of strip joints and nightclubs when he joined the United States Air Force Tops In Blue in 1954 and 1955.
During the mid-1950s, Van Dyke worked at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Jerry Van Dyke Show, which included future CBS News Early Show news anchor Joseph Benti, Nancee South, and Ben Falber, was popular fare.
In the service, Van Dyke performed at military bases around the world, twice winning the All Air Force Talent Show.
Following his first guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show and two others on CBS’s The Ed Sullivan Show, CBS made him a regular on The Judy Garland Show. He was also given hosting chores on the 1963 game show Picture This. In that same year, movie audiences saw him in supporting roles in the films McLintock!, Palm Springs Weekend and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
In 1963, Van Dyke was cast on an episode of the CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. When The Judy Garland Show was unsuccessfully revamped, Van Dyke left the program. He turned down the offer to play Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, a role which went instead to Bob Denver. He rejected as well an offer to replace Don Knotts as Sheriff Andy Taylor’s deputy on The Andy Griffith Show.
Van Dyke finally accepted the lead role of attorney David Crabtree in the short-lived sitcom, My Mother the Car (1965), the misadventures of a man whose deceased mother Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern) is reincarnated as a restored antique car.
Although the series was a commercial failure, Van Dyke continued to work steadily in supporting television and film roles through the rest of the decade. He starred in another short-lived situation comedy, Accidental Family (1967), as widowed comedian Jerry Webster who buys a farm to raise his son while he is not away on professional tours.
He also was featured in the film Love and Kisses (1965) and as Andy Griffith’s co-star in Angel in My Pocket (1969).
During the 1970s, Van Dyke returned to stand-up comedy. He spent much of the decade touring Playboy Clubs around the country and headlining venues in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, Summerfest in Milwaukee, and in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He returned to television for guest appearances on Love, American Style and Fantasy Island.
In 1973, he portrayed Wes Callison, News Writer, on the season four episode, “Son of ‘But Seriously, Folks'” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He also had roles in The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon (1976) and 13 Queens Boulevard (1979).
In 1988, he made a guest appearance on Scott Baio’s sitcom Charles in Charge as Jamie Powell’s health teacher, Mr. Merkin. In 1989, Van Dyke began portraying Luther Van Dam, a beloved, yet befuddled assistant coach on the long-running series Coach. For this role, he received four consecutive Emmy Award nominations (1990 through 1993) for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series”.
In 1995, he appeared in a series of Hardee’s commercials to promote the Big Hardee, then in the late 1990s acted as the spokesperson for Big Lots. He appeared in the 2000s sitcom Yes, Dear as a recurring character, Big Jimmy, the father of Jimmy Hughes. He made a guest appearance on a September 2008 episode of My Name Is Earl and in 2010, he made an appearance on the second-season episode, “A Simple Christmas” of the television series, The Middle, playing Frankie’s father, Tag Spence. He returned in “Thanksgiving III” in November 2011, “Thanksgiving IV” in November 2012, “From Orson with Love” in May 2013, and “Thanksgiving V” in November 2013. Van Dyke also played the object of Maw Maw’s affections on the 18th episode of the first season of the series Raising Hope. In a December 2013 episode of The Millers he played Bud Miller, father to Margo Martindale’s character, Carol.
In his final TV role in April 2015, he reprised his role as Frankie’s father on The Middle, guesting along with real-life brother Dick Van Dyke to play brothers.
Van Dyke was married twice and had three children with first wife Carol, daughters Jerri Lynn and Kelly Jean and son Ronald. Kelly Jean Van Dyke committed suicide in 1991, following struggles with substance abuse.
Jerry and wife Shirley resided together on their 800-acre ranch near Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Van Dyke was an avid poker player and announced a number of poker tournaments for ESPN in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was also a 4-string banjo player with several performances on The Dick Van Dyke Show to his credit.
Van Dyke died on January 5, 2018, at his Arkansas ranch, aged 86. He was in declining health since being involved in a car accident two years earlier.