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St. Elsewhere Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

In 1982, the television landscape looked drastically different than it does today. So when the series "St. Elsewhere" debuted, it represented one of the first signs of television moving towards its prestige-dominated present.

Revolving around St. Eligius, a teaching hospital in Boston, "St. Elsewhere" acted as a predecessor to many of the more modern hospital dramas and sitcoms that have come since. Shows like "ER," "Chicago Hope," and "The Resident" embraced the "Elsewhere" approach to large, diverse casts and crosscutting storylines. "Grey's Anatomy" and "Virgin River" continue its approach to the soapy aspects of medical life. Heck, even "Scrubs" reflects "Elsewhere" with its underfunded teaching hospital setting and off-kilter humor.

However, the show's most significant contribution to pop culture remains its ability to showcase incredible actors. Despite struggling in the ratings, "Elsewhere" was counted many future stars amongst its doctors. Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Bruce Greenwood, and Howie Mandel — to name but a few — built foundational aspects of their careers in St. Elgius' hallways.

Given the cast's size and depth of guest stars featured over six seasons, it can be challenging to keep track of what happened to all of them in the years since. Unfortunately, several of the illustrious players have passed away over the years. Please join us as we revisit St. Eligius once more to pay tribute to the actors who are no longer with us.

Ed Flannery - Dr. Donald Westphall

A theater actor from the start of his career, Ed Flannery spent several years on Broadway before making the jump to television and then film a few years after that. In 1974, he won the Tony for his role in "Moon for the Misbegotten," a Eugene O'Neill play.

As Dr. Westphall, Flannery acted as the emotional center for both the hospital and the show for several years. He was honored for his efforts with Emmy nominations for Best Dramatic Lead five years in a row and a win in 1983. Flannery eventually left the show in its sixth season, producing what was then one of the most controversial moments in network history. He mooned John Gideon (Ronny Cox) and told the administrator, "You can kiss my a**, pal!" Despite the nudity, the censors decided that, given the dramatic and non-erotic purpose of the exposure, it should remain in the episode.

Unfortunately, life off-screen proved much rockier for Flannery. Depression, multiple divorces, and chronic back pain all conspired to make Flannery's life a struggle. In 1995, at the age of 60, the actor ended his own life. Shortly afterwards, audiences got to see him one last time in the film "Bye, Bye Love."  

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Norman Lloyd - Dr. Daniel Auschlander

Norman Lloyd spent 86 years of his life acting on either stage, film, or television screen. After graduating high school at age 15, Lloyd went to New York University. However, he dropped out after a year in response to the Great Depression. Fortunately, Lloyd was eventually able to begin his acting career as the youngest student at one of New York's most respected acting school.

Throughout the 1930s, Lloyd repeatedly was a part of some of the era's most significant events, including the social theater scene and becoming a charter player in Orson Welles' independent repertory group The Mercury Theatre. Then, after a brief hiatus thanks to the Hollywood blacklist, Lloyd found his way back to show business thanks to Alfred Hitchcock hiring him to produce and direct "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" in the late '50s. From that point forward, Lloyd worked as either an actor, producer, or director until 2017.

As Dr. Daniel Auschlander in "St. Elsewhere," Lloyd played the chief of services and, essentially, the hospital's institutional memory. Introduced as suffering from cancer in the first season, Auschlander always seemed well aware of his mortality, even after remission. Lloyd, however, survived many years more. He made notable appearances in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Murder, She Wrote," — as three different characters, in fact — and "Modern Family." He also showed up on the big screen in the likes of "Dead Poets Society," "Trainwreck," and "The Age of Innocence." In May of 2021, he died at 106 years old.

Sagan Lewis - Dr. Jacqueline Wade

Born Susan Jane Lewis, Sagan Lewis began her career in the late '70s on the stage. Her first significant television role came as Dr. Jacqueline Wade in "St. Elsewhere," a part specifically created for her by showrunner Bruce Paltrow. Over the course of six seasons, Wade's role steadily grew in importance and screen time until she began appearing in the opening credits in Season 5.

Being a part of "Elsewhere" also allowed her to work closely with her husband, Tom Fontana, a writer on the show. While they divorced in 1993, they would work together again on "Homicide: Life on the Streets," where Lewis had a recurring role as Judge Susan Aandahl. Eventually, the two would reconcile personally as well, remarrying in 2015. The couple joked on their new wedding invitations that "the divorce didn't work out."

Lewis lived with cancer for six years before the disease overwhelmed her body's immune system. She died in 2016 at the age of 63.

Stephen Furst - Dr. Elliot Axelrod

While trying to break into acting, Stephen Furst delivered pizzas to make ends meet. Deciding any exposure could help him, he began to include a headshot with every pizza delivered. This eventually got him noticed by Matty Simmons and cast as Kent "Flounder" Dorfman in "Animal House." He would go on to a career of extensive television and voiceover work. Even as he scaled back his acting, he remained an active producer, helping to make films for the rest of his life.

He joined the cast of "Elsewhere" in the series' second season, playing medical student Elliot Axelrod. In the third season, he both became a doctor and a full member of the cast. He'd remain in the role until the series finale, appearing in 97 episodes.

Before dying in 2106 from complications of diabetes, Furst was among those who questioned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences commitment to diversity. In a letter, he argued that the Academy's reaction to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign failed to address the body's sexism and ageism. Additionally, he suggested many existing members voted without watching the films in question.

Doris Roberts - Cora

Perhaps best known as Marie Barone in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Doris Roberts began her career in 1951, and she made numerous guest appearances on television shows in those early years before appearing in films in the '60s. Of course, before playing Ray Romano's mom, she first made a stop at St. Eligius.

In Season 1 of "St. Elsewhere," Roberts appeared in the episode "Cora and Arnie," named after characters played by her and fellow guest star James Coco. Cora and Arnie, unhoused residents of Boston, must check into the hospital with a myriad of symptoms. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that harsh New England winters have taken their toll on Cora's extremities, and she needs multiple amputations.

For Roberts' ability to author the character, the actor received an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She would later pick up four more Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on "Raymond." Sadly, Roberts passed in 2016 at the age of 90.

James Coco - Arnie

The other half of the unhoused couple from "Cora and Arnie," James Coco turned in a surprisingly empathetic performance as the cognitively limited Arnie. Struggling with processing in general and gaps in his memory, Arnie has to come to terms with his wife's health problems and how they'll permanently affect their lives.

Like Roberts, Coco came away with an Emmy for his work on the episode. Throughout his career, the actor earned significant awards attention. In addition to the Emmy, he received three Obie Awards for Distinguished Performance for his stage work in "The Moon in Yellow River," "Fragments," and "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie." Coco snagged an Oscar nomination for his work in the dramedy "Only When I Laugh," and you might recognize him from cameos and guest spots in "The Love Boat," "Murder, She Wrote," "Fantasy Island," and "The Muppets Take Manhattan."

Sadly, in 1987, Coco suffered a heart attack at home and died shortly after. He was 56 years old.

Edward Herrmann - Father Joseph McCabe

A two-parter in Season 4, "Time Heals" showed the establishing of St. Eligius by Edward Herrmann's Father Joseph McCabe and provided origin stories for Dr. Westphall and Dr. Auschlander. In addition, the episode acted as a kind of foreshadowing for Westphall's eventual fate, with Father McCabe eventually being forced out by a change in administration.

Herrmann, perhaps best known at the time for playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in two TV movies that chronicled FDR's life before and during the presidency, brought a sense of progressivism and empathy to the Father. After viewers met his mentor, McCabe, it become much easier to understand who Westphall was despite the doctor's multiple tragedies.

Herrmann was a journeyman actor, delivering noteworthy performances on stage, television, and the big screen. He won a Tony for his work in the play "Mrs. Warren's Profession" and an Emmy for a guest turn on "The Practice." He was nominated for his role on "St. Elsewhere" as well. At the time of his death in 2014, Herrmann was best known as the warm-hearted WASP grandfather in "Gilmore Girls." The show's reboot season addressed his passing, honoring him on-screen and in several interviews promoting the new series.

Jack Riley - Elliot Carlin

One thing "St. Elsewhere" became known for over its tenure was how it crossed over and into other series on NBC. For example, with its Boston setting, some of the doctors naturally made their way to "Cheers."

And then there was the Season 4 episode "Close Encounters," where actor Jack Riley gave us another wild crossover. Riley reprised his role as Elliot Carlin, his character from "The Bob Newhart Show" a decade earlier. The references didn't stop there either. One character under St. Elgius' care believes he's Mary Richards from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." As a result, he repeatedly refers to other members of the Elgius staff or visitors as characters from the hit sitcom. The most meta of these is the character calling Betty White, also guesting as Captain Gloria Neal, Sue Ann. White, of course, played Sue Ann Nivens in "Moore."

After years of guest appearances, sometimes reprising Carlin yet again, Riley spent much of the latter portion of his career doing voice work, including, most prominently, as Stu Pickles in "Rugrats." He passed away in 2016 from pneumonia at 80 years old.

Betty White - Captain Gloria Neal

This is admittedly something of a cheat as it's reasonably unlikely readers would be unaware of Betty White's passing just short of her 100th birthday in 2021. However, readers might not be aware of White's multiple guest spots on "St. Elsewhere." Plus, one can't really pass up a moment to pay homage to White.

White first appeared as Captain Neal in Season 3's "Red, White, Black and Blue." Neal was acting as part of the first lady's advance team. She'd selected St. Elgius as the designated hospital should something happen to the first lady and anyone on her team during their visit to Boston.

Despite White's reputation for comedy, this is an entirely serious performance. Her second appearance the next season was in a more comedic episode, but White remained stoic as Neal, heightening the meta-comedy — one patient mistakes her for her "Mary Tyler Moore Show" character — as the straight person. White, of course, is an acting legend with seven Emmys to her name. She worked more or less up to her passing, providing laughs with later roles in the film "The Proposal" and as a regular in "Hot in Cleveland."