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Earl Hindman Passes Away


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The New York Times

Buena Vista Television

Earl Hindman

Earl Hindman, the actor known to millions as the odd neighbor barely seen as he peeks over the backyard fence in the long-running television situation comedy "Home Improvement," died Monday at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. A Stamford resident, he was 61.

The cause was lung cancer, said his wife, the Rev. Molly P. McGreevy.

Hindman played Wilson from next door, imparting bits of wisdom about life to Tim Taylor, the embattled main character who knows how to improve other people's houses but not his own home. Viewers heard Wilson's advice but were left to wonder if they would ever get to see more of him. The show, a hit for ABC through the 1990s, continues to be seen nationally in syndication.

A lean, lanky character actor, Hindman started his versatile career on stage and appeared in films, television series and specials for more than 30 years. Before "Home Improvement," he was Detective Lt. Bob Reid for 16 years on the ABC daytime drama "Ryan's Hope," until it ended its run in 1989.

Earl Hindman was born in Bisbee, Ariz., and started acting in high school. He studied it at the University of Arizona before setting out for New York. He worked both on and off Broadway and in regional theater before breaking through with his Off-Broadway role as Marvin Hudgins in "Dark of the Moon" in 1970. A year later he was in the original production of "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" by David Rabe at the Public Theater.

He made his first movie in 1969 and continued to mix films, television and the stage. His films included "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" (1991) and, most recently, "Final" (2001).

Besides his wife of 27 years, Hindman is survived by his mother, Eula Hindman, and a brother, Ray, both of Tucson, Ariz.; and a sister, Anna Dean Shields of Payson, Ariz.

His wife said he finished shooting his last short feature, "Beautiful Summer," in June. Meant for independent or public television, it showed him as a crabbed old fisherman, hallucinating and in the end drowning, she said.

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