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Silver Spoons Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"Silver Spoons" was one of the most popular family sitcoms of the 1980s. Starring Ricky Schroder as Ricky Stratton and Joel Higgins as his wealthy father, Edward Stratton III, the series aired from 1982 to 1987, first on NBC and then in syndication.

The show made Schroder a young teen idol and the envy of all kids who envisioned living in a mansion with a scale-model train running through their living room. The show also became popular enough to attract an impressive list of '80s-era guest stars, including Christina Applegate, Fran Drescher, Mr. T, Whitney Houston, and boy band Menudo. Heck, even former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill made a cameo on the series, per IMDb.

But September 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of "Silver Spoons," which means everyone who appeared on the show is at least at middle age. And sadly, with such a large recurring and guest cast, several of the stars have since passed away.

John Houseman died one year after Silver Spoons ended its run

John Houseman was known as a respected mentor and actor by the time he appeared in "Silver Spoons." Born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest in 1902, the star emigrated 22 years later to the U.S., where he made a name for himself in theater after The Great Depression ruined his plans to follow in the family grain business, per The New York Times. An acolyte of the great Orson Welles, Houseman went on to become the founding director of the drama division at the famous New York Juilliard School's drama division.

While he had decades of mentoring experience under his belt, his TV resume didn't start until the 1970s — when he was in his 70s. Houseman, who won an Academy Award for his supporting role as Professor Kingsfield in the 1973 movie "The Paper Chase," played Ricky's grandfather Edward Stratton II in all five seasons of "Silver Spoons."

In an interview with Bullz-Eye.com, Ricky Schroder reflected on working with the esteemed actor, describing him as "a nice old guy." He also revealed that Houseman, who was in his 80s at the time that they worked together, sometimes struggled with memory problems on the set. Houseman died in 1988 of spinal cancer, according to The New York Times. The outlet noted that the 86-year-old actor was still working up until three days before his death.

Franklyn Seales died in 1990 at a young age

Speaking of the Juilliard School, in the 1970s, John Houseman once offered another future "Silver Spoons" star a full four-year scholarship to the prestigious acting school, according to the New York Daily News. The honor went to young actor Franklyn Seales, who would go from being an accomplished stage star to playing Papa Stratton's fussy business manager, Dexter Roosevelt Stuffins, in all five seasons of "Silver Spoons."

Born on the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent in July 1952, Seales grew up in New York. A born performer, as Seales' family recounted in his brother-in-law Jean M. Dorsinville's glowing biography "Franklyn V.E. Seales: Life of an Artist," he was only in his 30s when he landed the role on the hit series as a main cast member. Unfortunately, his success as a television star was short-lived. He also appeared in episodes of "Amen" and "Growing Pains" –- two other big '80s sitcoms –- but three years after "Silver Spoons" wrapped, he died at his family's home in Brooklyn, New York, from complications of AIDS, according to a 1990 obituary in The Los Angeles Times. He was 37 when he died.

Recalling his brother-in-law's unique, seemingly "supernatural" qualities, Dorsinville wrote in his biography's introduction, "Franklyn intuitively understood his calling to the arts. He was selected and drawn to the energies ... He was inexorable in his quest to win people over by his inner vision and love."

Ray Walston died in 2001

Ray Walston had quite a career. Over a near-50-year span, he played a favorite TV martian — that'd be Uncle Martin in the 1960s science fiction comedy series, "My Favorite Martian" — a no-nonsense history teacher in the teen film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," and yes, Uncle Harry Summers in "Silver Spoons." Walston turned up in three episodes of the NBC sitcom to play the uncle of Edward Stratton III's personal assistant-turned-wife, Kate Summers (Erin Gray), per IMDb. He even had an episode dedicated to his quirky character, titled "The Trouble With Harry."

Walston was born in 1914 and began acting in 1939, per TV Guide. By 1956, he won a Tony Award for his role as Satan in "Damn Yankees." After moving to TV, Walston later tried to distance himself from his "My Favorite Martian" role, but in 1999, he embraced it by taking a small part in the movie remake. Walston famously played coy about his age. He was nearly 80 when he was nominated for his first Emmy, but he once told the Post-Gazette that he followed character actor Thomas Mitchell's mantra of "the older you get, the less work you get" in Hollywood — so he was never straight about his age in interviews.

While he worked steadily until the year of his death, Walston was diagnosed with lupus six years prior, per the Lupus Trust website.  On January 1, 2001, he died at home at age 86 of natural causes, according to Variety

Gary Coleman died after an accident at his home

Talk about a sitcom crossover! The year was 1982 and the episode was "The Great Computer Caper." That's when the already established NBC hit, "Diff'rent Strokes," collided with the network's new addition, "Silver Spoons." Gary Coleman's long-running Arnold Jackson character turned up for the seventh episode of "Silver Spoons'" to do a school newspaper story on Ricky Stratton. The two teens accidentally hacked into a government database — and the rest is sitcom history. 

Coleman was born in 1968 and became a 1970s child star at age 10 after he caught the eye of an agent for TV producer Norman Lear, per The New York Times. At the height of his career, the young actor was earning $3 million per year, the outlet noted, and on the lower end of his pay scale, he worked as a mall security guard as an adult. In between, Coleman appeared on "The Jeffersons," "Good Times, "The Facts of Life," "Married With Children" and more. Coleman suffered from congenital kidney disease, and in the late 1980s, he became estranged from his parents over his trust fund.

Sadly, the beloved former child star died at a young age. Coleman died on May 28, 2010, after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a fall at his home in Utah, according to his Los Angeles Times obituary. He was just 42 years old. After Coleman's death was announced, Ricky Schroder remembered his childhood co-star in a statement to Us Weekly. "Gary can now have the peace he found so little of in life," Schroder said.