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George Gaynes, 'Punky Brewster' Actor, Dead At 98

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 17/02/2016 Julia Brucculieri

Actor George Gaynes, known for his roles on "Punky Brewster" and "Police Academy," has died. He was 98 years old. 

The actor died at his daughter Iya Gaynes Falcone Brown's home in North Bend, Washington on Monday night. Falcone Brown, confirmed the news to The New York Times. 

Born in Finland in 1917, Gaynes had an distinguished career in entertainment. He came to New York after World War II and joined the New York City Opera, where he played Figaro and Leporello in "Don Giovanni." 

ATHENA IMAGE © ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE He appeared on many TV series in the '60s and '70s such as "Hawaii Five-O," "Bonanza," "Hogan's Heroes" and "Columbo." He also appeared on Broadway in Cole Porter's "Out of This World" and played Rosalind Russell's suitor in 1953's "Wonderful Town," a musical version of "My Sister Eileen."

Gaynes scored his first major role in 1982's "Tootsie," as a soap opera actor who pursues Dustin Hoffman's character. He followed that film up with two of his most iconic roles -- Commandant Eric Lassard in the "Police Academy" films, and Henry Warnimont, the foster father in "Punky Brewster." 

Gayne's "Punky Brewster" co-star Soleil Moon Frye shared an emotional reaction to the actor's death on Twitter Tuesday night. 

"The universe just gained a gigantic star. You will be in my heart and soul always & forever. Your little Punky. RIP George Gaynes," the actress wrote. 

"He was really one of the true gentlemen in this business and was working steadily for 50 years or more. A sad, sad loss. But he had a really long, great life," Gaynes' longtime agent, Jonathan Howard, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday night. 

Gaynes retired in 2003 after appearing in romantic comedy "Just Married" with the late Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher. He moved from Santa Barbara, California to Washington shortly after. 

He is survived by his wife, actress Allyn Ann McLerie, his daughter, a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters. Gaynes also had a son, who died in a car accident in 1989. 

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