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Community Actors You May Not Know Have Passed Away

Dan Harmon's cynical sitcom "Community" first aired on NBC, but finished its run on Yahoo! Screen, a service that itself barely managed to outlive the "Community" series finale (via Variety). The story follows a group of students at Greendale Community College who form a study group and then do anything but study in said group. Harmon, who's also known for his co-creation of "Rick And Morty" with Justin Roiland, told Entertainment Weekly in a 2020 interview that the premise was initially inspired by his own experience at community college in his early thirties.

Given that "Community" features episodes involving campus-wide paintball matches and pillow forts, that's a claim we're just going to have to take at face value. Simultaneously, "Community" also features more somber content such as the death of Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), something that may or may not have been caused by the behind-the-scenes drama between Chase and Harmon. There are characters who made it to the end of the series, however, that are no longer with us in reality. Here are some of the talents from "Community" that have passed away since the show's completion.

Richard Erdman (Leonard) died in 2019

Richard Erdman was a boisterous actor who worked in the industry for over 70 years (via IMDb). Sometimes performing under the moniker of Dick Erdman, his bread and butter were television serials, although he appeared in quite a few films, as well. Some of his best-known credits include Leo in "The Men," Ed Brent in "Anything Goes," and Sergeant Hoffy Hoffman in "Stalag 17."

In "Community," Erdman portrays Leonard, a rascally old man who thoroughly enjoys picking on the study group. Although never officially a main character, Leonard appears in 53 episodes spanning all six seasons, including the series finale. One of the longest-running gags in the show is how the study group responds to Leonard's quips. Usually someone will respond with a harshly simple "shut up," followed by the darkest, most specific insult to a person anyone could possibly imagine. The main reason it plays well is that Leonard accepts these insults because they normally riff on the bizarre history the elderly student has lived through. 

Sadly, Erdman died on March 16, 2019, at the age of 93. According to the New York Times, Erdman was predeceased by both his wife, Sharon, and their daughter, Erica. No official cause of death was ever provided. According to Erdman's Find A Grave profile, he was cremated, but his final resting place is unknown.

Fred Willard (Alter-Pierce) died in 2020

Fred Willard was a comedic actor who consistently worked in the industry for over 50 years (via IMDb). He appeared in everything from shorts to feature-length films, as well as animation and a variety of live-action TV series. Some of his best-known roles include Jerry Hubbard in "Fernwood Tonight" and "America 2-Night," Fred in "DC Follies," and Shelby Forthright in "WALL-E."

In "Community," Willard portrays Alter-Pierce, who appears in Season 4, Episode 1 ("History 101"). In the episode, Abed (Danny Pudi) secludes himself in his mind's happy place, where he plays out a silly sitcom version of his life at Greendale. The only major differences between his reality and his fantasy are that there's an overused laugh track and that Chase's character has been recast, which results in Willard's appearance.

In 2018, Willard's wife, Mary, passed away at 71 years old (via Find A Grave). Two years later, Willard himself died at 86 years of age after suffering a severe heart attack (via Entertainment Weekly). His daughter, Hope, was the person to officially break the news to the public. He was laid to rest in the Peaceful Memory section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills (via Find A Grave).

Wil Garret (Old Man/Harry) died in 2021

Wil Garret appears to have become an actor relatively late in life, but he still managed a 15-year career (via IMDb). In truth, very little is known about the man other than the fact that he consistently played elderly men in nearly all of his acting credits. On more than one occasion, Garret was simply credited as Old Man. His most prominent projects include a brief stint with "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" and an episode of "Criminal Minds." Dedicated fans of "Community" will also remember him for his three credits in the series, in which he is listed both as Old Man and Harry. 

Similar in concept to Leonard, the Old Man is one of Greendale's oldest students. He first briefly appears in Season 3, Episode 13 ("Digital Exploration Of Interior Design") and returns in Season 3, Episode 14 ("Pillow And Blankets"). In the latter episode, he is interviewed as a part of a Ken Burns-style mockumentary about the short-lived war between the Greendale communities of Pillowtown and Blanketsburg. Interestingly, Garret appears once more in Season 3, Episode 17 ("Basic Lupine Urology") in a role now credited as Harry. Although the IMDb credits are different, it certainly seems probable that Garret was technically the same character in all three episodes.

According to a Facebook page dedicated to the late actor, Garret, who went by the nickname of "Mr. G," passed away in early 2021 at 83 years old. The cause of death is not known. However, there is a touching, animated tribute to his life on YouTube put together by his son, independent filmmaker Drew Tank Garrett. In the video, Garrett says that he considers his late father not gone, but transcended.

Betty White (Professor June Bauer) died in 2021

Betty White was a prolific actress who worked in the industry for over 70 years (via IMDb). She appeared in everything from animated projects to soap operas to live variety shows. Some of her highest-profile roles on television include Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Elizabeth in "Life With Elizabeth," and Rose Nylund in "The Golden Girls."

In "Community," White portrays Professor June Bauer, who appears in Season 2, Episode 1 ("Anthropology 101"). Bauer is adventurously demented, and frequently threatens/inflicts physical harm upon her students with ancient weaponry. Even worse, she demands that they all create a diorama for her class. Bauer was suspended for attempted homicide. She also appears in a brief, musical cameo for Season 2, Episode 3 ("The Psychology Of Letting Go").

White suffered a stroke at the end of 2021 (via CNN) and passed away only 17 days before she could reach the age of 100. It's also reported that her final words were for her late husband, Allen Ludden, who passed away in 1981 (via Insider). She was cremated, and her ashes were given to Glenn Kaplan, who was in charge of her health care directive (via Find A Grave).