Dan Haggerty, star of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, died in Burbank early Friday morning after a short battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.
People reports that Haggerty experienced back pain in July and was subsequently diagnosed the following month with cancer in his spine.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Haggerty’s daughter, Megan, had set up a page on a crowdfunding site to help raise money for his fight against “this bear known as cancer.” She had already raised $10,500 toward her $100,000 goal.
Terry Bomar, Dan’s friend and manager of 20 years, spoke with People.
“He fought hard,” Bomar said. “He had a great Thanksgiving, he had a great Christmas with his family.”
“Dan was a beloved award winning actor in dozens of films and TV roles, but he will be remembered by millions of fans as the man who made Grizzly Adams famous. All the awards pale in comparison to his huge laugh and wonderful sense of humor that made everyone laugh with him. He would light up any room he entered. He loved life, loved his family, loved his friends and fans. The last words I heard him say were ‘I love you.'”
Dan was visited by family and close friends in the hospital during his final days, added Bomar.
Haggerty was born Gene Jajonski in Pound, Wisconsin, on November 19, 1941. His family ran a small wild animal attraction. He helped raise the wild animals, including a black bear that did tricks, according to Wikipedia.
After moving to Southern California after high school, Haggerty was cast in 1964 as a bodybuilder in Muscle Beach Party and also in Girl Happy, which starred Elvis Presley.
His early experiences working with animals landed him work as an animal trainer and handler in Walt Disney Studio movies.
He acted as a stuntman in the Tarzan television series. He worked with more wild animals in When the North Wind Blows and in the 1997 movie Grizzly Mountain.
Haggerty is best known for his portrayal of the lovable character Grizzly Adams in the 1974 feature film The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. A subsequent television series of the same name ran from 1977 to 1978.
The film and series was loosely based on the story of James “Grizzly” Adams (1812-1860), a California mountain man whose real name was John Capen Adams,” according to Wikipedia.
In the story, Grizzly Adams is a woodsman who was falsely accused of murder before fleeing into the woods. He rescues an orphaned grizzly bear and names it Ben. Ben grows into adulthood, and becomes Adams’ large and constant companion.
Adams is gentle and learns to gain the trust of the wildlife around him. Although originally a hunter, he resolves to never harm another animal if at all possible.
After Grizzly, Haggerty continued to act in film and television. He had bit parts in David Carradine’s film Americana and in Easy Rider. In 1989, he starred in Spirit of the Eagle.
Dan also worked as an infomercial spokesman. One of the products he endorsed, the Pap-Ion Magnetic Inductor, was found to be fraudulent and illegal to use in the United States because it had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Dan was found to be unaware of the issues with the product at the time he was endorsing it.
In 1980, Haggerty starred in the television miniseries Condominium. He acted in The Love Boat, Terror Night, Night Wars, Elves, and The Chilling. He was also known for his portrayal of Tubby in Big Stan in 2007.
By far the Greatest Athletic Actor who ever lived! Loved by people, bears, eagles! My friend Dan Haggerty has died. pic.twitter.com/3DFuAH55qs
— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) January 15, 2016
Two recent films he worked on are in post-production and will be released this year. He plays Captain in The Untold Story and Yahweh in 40 Nights.
Dan married Diane Rooker in 1959. After having two children together, they divorced in 1984. Haggerty then married Samantha Hilton that same year. They had three children. Samantha was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2008.
Dan Haggerty is the only actor to ever have his star removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, reports IMDB. The star actually belonged to Dan’s father, actor Don Haggerty, and the name had been misspelled by the committee.
Dan did finally get his own star, which is located in front of the Chinese Theatre.
RIP, Grizzly Adams Star Dan Haggerty, dead at 74.
[Photo by Stephen Shugerman/GettyImages]