After a battle with bladder cancer, David Ogden Stiers, most known for his role as the uptight, pompous Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M.A.S.H., died on March 3 at his home in Newport, Oregon. Stiers’ run as Winchester began in 1977 when Larry Linville opted to leave the series after playing Major Frank Burns for five seasons. Stiers, a commanding presence at 6-foot-4, played the role of Winchester for six seasons until the series ended in 1983.
His acting career took him from the Broadway stage in productions such as Measure for Measure and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas to prolific voice acting roles. Stiers voiced Cogsworth in Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast and provided the narration as well. He and his fellow voice actors were nominated for a Grammy award in 1993 for the album Beauty and the Beast (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).
Nominated for an Emmy three times, Stiers continued his voice acting with notable roles in Lilo & Stitch from 2003 to 2006 and returned to a regular television series in 2002 when he began portraying Reverend Eugene “Gene” Purdy in The Dead Zone. Most recently, he voiced Mr. Maellard on the animated series Regular Show.
In addition to his talent as an actor, Stiers was the resident conductor for the Newport Symphony Orchestra and the Ernest Bloch Music Festival for over three decades. He guest conducted in over 30 American orchestras such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Newport Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Adam Flatt, called Stiers “a generous, loving, and inspirational friend and pillar to our orchestra, and, indeed, to all of us individually” and said that the orchestra would “work to keep David’s spirit alive in all our performances.”
In 2009, Stiers came out as gay. He had kept his sexuality private because he didn’t want it to affect his acting career, but Stiers told ABC that he decided to come out because he wished to spend the rest of his life being who he was.
“I wish to spend my life’s twilight being just who I am. I could claim noble reasons as coming out in order to move gay rights forward, but I must admit it is for far more selfish reasons. Now is the time I wish to find someone, and I do not desire to force any potential partner to live a life of extreme discretion with me.”
Not long after news of the actor’s death, David Ogden Stiers began trending on Twitter where writers, fellow actors, news anchors, and fans voiced their sadness over the loss of one of their favorite actors. The tweets had one comment in common: He will be missed.