Paul Winchell was a man of many talents, but he is best remembered for his work as a ventriloquist and a voice actor. He brought to life many beloved characters, such as Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, Gargamel from The Smurfs, and Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races. He was also an inventor who patented an artificial heart and other devices. He died on June 24, 2005, at the age of 82, of natural causes.
A Life Full of Achievements
Paul Winchell was born on December 21, 1922, in New York City, to Jewish immigrants from Poland and Austria-Hungary. His father was a tailor and his mother was a homemaker. He contracted polio when he was six years old, which caused his legs to atrophy. He overcame this disability by learning to walk with braces and crutches.
He developed an interest in ventriloquism when he was 13 years old, after seeing an advertisement for a kit in a magazine. He made his own dummy, named Jerry Mahoney, and practiced his skills by imitating Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. He won a radio contest and started performing on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. He soon became a professional entertainer and toured with various shows.
He married his first wife, Dorothy Movitz, in 1942, and they had two children, Stacy and Stephanie. They divorced in 1959. He married his second wife, Nina Russell, in 1961, and they had one daughter, April. They divorced in 1972. He married his third wife, Jean Freeman, in 1974.
He became a television star in the 1950s, hosting his own show with his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. He also appeared on many popular programs, such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Brady Bunch. He was known for his witty humor and his ability to throw his voice.
He also pursued a career in voice acting, lending his distinctive voice to many animated characters. He worked for Disney, Hanna-Barbera, and other studios. He voiced Tigger from Winnie the Pooh for over 30 years, starting from 1968 until 1999. He also voiced Gargamel from The Smurfs, Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races, Boomer from The Fox and the Hound, and many others. He won a Grammy Award for his song “The Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” in 1974.
He was also an inventor who held over 30 patents for various devices. He invented an artificial heart that could be implanted in the chest cavity in 1963. He donated his patent to the University of Utah for further research. He also invented a disposable razor, a blood plasma defroster, a flameless cigarette lighter, and other gadgets.
He was also a humanitarian who supported many causes. He was involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. He also advocated for animal rights and vegetarianism. He donated money and time to various charities and organizations.
A Peaceful Death
Paul Winchell retired from show business in 1999 and moved to Moorpark, California. He spent his last years writing books and articles on various topics, such as religion, philosophy, politics, and health. He also maintained a website where he interacted with his fans.
He died on June 24, 2005, at his home in Moorpark. He was 82 years old. His death was attributed to natural causes by his family. His daughter April announced his death on her website and wrote a tribute to him.
She wrote: “He was always there for me when I needed him most…He taught me so much about life…He taught me how to laugh at myself…He taught me how to love unconditionally…He taught me how to be a good person…He taught me how to be brave…He taught me how to be happy…He taught me how to be me.”
She also wrote: “He was my hero…He was my friend…He was my dad…I love you dad…I miss you dad…Rest in peace dad.”
His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea by his family.
A Legacy That Lives On
Paul Winchell left behind a legacy that lives on through his work and his inventions. His voice can still be heard in many cartoons and movies that are enjoyed by generations of fans. His artificial heart paved the way for further developments in medical technology that have saved many lives. His humanitarian efforts have inspired many people to follow his example of compassion and generosity.
He is remembered as a man who had a passion for life and a talent for making people laugh. He is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television. He is also inducted into the International Ventriloquist Hall of Fame and the Disney Legends Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife Jean, his three children Stacy, Stephanie, and April, and his grandchildren.