Gary Friedkin, Actor in ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Return of the Jedi,’ Dies at 70

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Gary Friedkin, who appeared as Clarence the Cook on “Happy Days,” and the 1982 comedy “Young Doctors in Love,” died Dec. 2 from COVID-19 complications, according to the Youngstown, Ohio Tribune Chronicle.

The four-foot-tall actor, who was born on Nov. 23, 1952, in Youngstown, “passed away peacefully,” at Hospice House, with his brother, Alan, and sister-in-law, Carol, by his side.

“He endured a difficult three-and-a-half weeks in the medical intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, due to complications of COVID-19,” the online obituary read.

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“While Gary may have been short of stature, he was a giant amongst his family and friends. His legacy will live on as stories are told and retold for years to come by all who loved him. The family would like to thank Dr. Goodwin, who guided the family through this difficult time, and the phenomenal staff of St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital MICU, for the care and compassion they showed Gary and his family in his final days,” the online tribute stated.

Gary made his film debut in the 1981 “Wizard of Oz” comedy “Under the Rainbow.” He also appeared, uncredited, in “Blade Runner” and as an Ewok in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” His last film appearance was in Garry Marshall’s 2016 film “Mother’s Day.”

“He was a gift to all who knew him as an amazing son, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, great-uncle and friend. Gary lived his life to the absolute fullest, bringing endless laughs to his family and many friends, while never letting the obstacles he faced get in his way. Gary put countless smiles on people’s faces and left so many with their own special “Gary story,'” the obit continued.

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Friedkin was also a pianist. He trained at Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree.

He is survived by his brother Alan; sister-in-law, Carol; nephews, Nathan and Aaron (Joni) Friedkin; niece, Sara (Lance) Polikov; great-nieces, Hayden and Jordyn Polikov; and great-nephew, Sawyer Polikov.

A scholarship has been established in his name at YSU. Attention will be given to those with a disability or a concentration in the performing arts. Memorial donations can be made to the Gary Friedkin Scholarship. YSU Foundation, 655 Wick Ave., Youngstown, OH 44502.

A celebration of life will be held in spring 2023.

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