How Bobby Buntrock, the Child Star of Hazel, Died in a Tragic Accident

Bobby Buntrock was a young American actor who rose to fame for his role as Harold “Sport” Baxter on the popular sitcom Hazel in the 1960s. He had a promising career ahead of him, but sadly, he died at the age of 21 in a car accident that could have been prevented. Here is the story of his life and death, and how he is remembered by his fans and co-stars.

Early Life and Career

Bobby Buntrock was born on August 4, 1952, in Denver, Colorado, to Robert and Maxine Buntrock. He had two sisters, Stella and Deanne. When he was three years old, his family moved to Whittier, California, where his neighbors encouraged his parents to get him into acting. According to Featuredbiography, they even sent a photographer to take his picture and send it to an agent

Bobby’s parents agreed and signed him with Marcella Belle Rinehart, who got him his first role at the age of seven on an episode of Wagon Train with Bette Davis. He also appeared in guest spots on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Mister Ed, and The Donna Reed Show

In 1961, Bobby landed his most famous role as Harold “Sport” Baxter on Hazel, a sitcom based on the comic strip by Ted Key. The show starred Shirley Booth as Hazel Burke, a live-in maid who worked for the Baxter family and often meddled in their affairs. Bobby played the son of George and Dorothy Baxter (Don DeFore and Whitney Blake), who adored Hazel and often got into mischief with her

The show was a hit and ran for five seasons, first on NBC and then on CBS. In the fifth season, the show was revamped and Bobby’s character moved in with his uncle Steve (Ray Fulmer), aunt Barbara (Lynn Borden), and cousin Susie (Julia Benjamin), after his parents were written out of the show

During the run of Hazel, Bobby was tutored on the set and attended Lake Marie Public School in Whittier when the show was on hiatus. He also became close friends with Shirley Booth, who treated him like a grandson. According to Amomama, she even bought him a pony for his birthday

Death and Legacy

After Hazel ended in 1966, Bobby appeared in two episodes of The Virginian in 1967 and then retired from acting. He moved with his family to Keystone, South Dakota, where he graduated from Sturgis High School in 1970. He also joined the National Guard in Rapid City

On April 7, 1974, Bobby was driving to visit a friend when he encountered a bridge that had been damaged by a flood in 1972. The bridge had not been repaired properly and had a hole in the middle that was filled with water from Battle Creek. There were no warning signs or barricades to alert drivers of the danger. Bobby’s car slid off the bridge and plunged into the water, trapping him inside. He tried to escape but could not open the door due to the water pressure. He drowned before divers could reach him. He was 21 years old

Bobby’s death was a shock to his fans and co-stars, who remembered him as a sweet and talented boy who had a bright future ahead of him. Shirley Booth was devastated by the news and reportedly never recovered from it. She died in 1992 at the age of 94

Bobby is buried at Keystone Cemetery in Keystone, South Dakota. His grave is marked by a simple stone that reads “Robert W Buntrock – Aug 4 1952 – Apr 7 1974”. His fans still visit his grave and leave flowers and toys for him. His memory is also kept alive by his performances on Hazel, which are still enjoyed by many viewers today

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