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Old 01-10-2009, 12:07 PM   #1
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TV A Tribute to Dan Blocker

(In 1973, TV Radio Mirror magazine published a loving tribute to the late Dan Blocker. Here, in
its entirety, is that article.)

"Farewell, Old Buddy"
By Dean Gautschy

The [1972-'73] season's Bonanza was to have been a special one for Dan Blocker--both professionally and in his private life. The first segment was to feature Hoss Cartwright in a two-hour episode in which he finally marries, and the beloved actor had arranged it so that throughout the year
he would have more free time to spend aboard his new "home" -- a 74-foot fishing trawler he was
having converted into a luxurious yacht he was planning to berth in the shelter of Southern Califor-
nia's Marina Del Rey harbor. Already Dan and his devoted wife Dolphia (Dolph as he always referred to her affectionately) had sold their huge estate in Hancock Park, an older yet still exclusive area in West Los Angeles. They were preparing to move to a smaller home and then onto the
yacht which would be their permanent address. In the spring the Blockers had returned from
Switzerland where for the past two years their children had been attending private schools. While
away, Dan had relaxed in their rented villa on Lake Lugano and stuck to a strict diet in preparation
for what was to be routine gall bladder surgery onf May 1. He had lost nearly 40 pounds and his
physician considered he was in prime condition for the operation that did come off without a single
complication. Within a few days the six-foot four kindly giant of a man was up and walking around
his room--Dan always made friends quickly, and he became the nurses' pet with his jovial and un-
complaining mannerisms at Inglewood's Centinela Valley Hospital.

"Gosh! I feel better than ever," he told longtime friend, photographer Herm Lewis, over the phone
a few days after the surgery. They discussed Dan's plans to sail his yacht (being outfitted in
Florida) around South America instead of taking the short cut via the Panama Canal.

Though Blocker never complained (he wasn't that kind of guy), he had been having health prob-
lems in recent years. Mainly he was plagued by a painful back condition that resulted from over-
weight and his love of driving racing cars and speedboats. At one time he weighed well over 300
pounds and wore a back brace to enable him to do the more strenuous scenes, especially riding
horses, for the series.

However, dieting had greatly eased his chronic back ailment--he was down to below 260 pounds.
But his gall bladder had been acting up and his doctor decided it would have to be removed. Be-
cause there was no immediate danger, the lovable star decided to complete filming the 13th sea-
son, vacation abroad, then have the surgery.

Thirteen, though, proved Dan Blocker's fatal unlucky number. Appearing strong and healthy
once again he was released from Centinela 12 days after the surgery on a beautiful Friday morn-
ing. The skies were clear and the temperature was in the low 80s. However, the next day, Satur-
day, May 13th, Dan Blocker was dead--a tragedy that stunned the entire world.

Bonanza at one time had been shown in some eighty nations and Hoss became "adopted"
into the homes of more than 400 million viewers. Popularity-wise he topped his Pa (Lorne
Greene) and brother Little Joe (Michael Landon), because physically he was so mammoth,
though gentle as a cuddly teddy bear--both on and off the Ponderosa. In one poll, several
years ago, he was the best known actor in all parts of the globe.

Of course, death is always a tragic statistic, and even more so when it strikes without warn-
ing. Dan Blocker had not the slightest premonition that he would not live another 24 hours
when he retired early Friday evening, telling his Dolph he felt good to be out of the hospital
and that "I sure enjoyed your dinner."

Though minus a gall bladder his doctor had told him he could eat most any foods, but to
stick to a bland diet.

Dolph remembers that he was most affectionate as he kissed her goodnight. But this didnt
strike her as being highly unusual, because he always was most appreciative of their love
throughout their twenty-year marriage.

Around 4 o'clock Saturday morning Dan suddenly awoke from a deep sleep. His head was
spinning in dizziness and when he tried to sit up fell weakly back onto his pillow. Dolph im-
mediately sensed something was gravely wrong, though Dan tried to assure her at first he was
only having a mild dizzy spell. But within minutes he was gasping for breath and his chest was
swept with excruciating pain.

Quickly Mrs. Blocker telephoned Centinela hospital and described her husband's condition.
Anxiety choked her voice, and an ambulance was rushed to the home. From all indications it
appeared the 43-year-old actor was suffering a heart attack. So he was quickly sped to nearby
Daniel Freeman hospital which is equipped with a coronary intensive care special unit.

Dr. Marvin Rosenburg immediately took charge and while a nurse administered oxygen to the
now unconscious patient the physician ordered a lung scan (an x-ray device that enables a
technician to see directly into the pulmonary area). Dr. Rosenberg had suspected from his
first highly skilled diagnosis that Blocker had been stricken by a blood clot and the lung scan
confirmed his findings.

Instead of the heart, he had suffered a massive pulmonary embolism (a deadly blood clot
rapidly filling the lungs). When this happens there is usually little chance for survival, though
Dr. Rosenberg and his staff worked feverishly.

Blocker was put in a heart and lung machine that was all that was keeping him alive while
Dr. Rosenberg tried every method he knew to save the star's life. By 4 o'clock that afternoon,
though, all was lost--Dan Blocker was dead.

In his final minutes Dolph and one of their 18-year-old twin-daughters, Debbie, stood weeping
at the bedside. Debbie's sister, Dana, and the two boys, David, 17, and Dirk, 15, had remained
in Switzerland and were due home shortly.

However, there was no hysteria ... Mrs. Blocker, like Dan, is a brave woman. The tears she
quickly dried.

Others cried, too, including Dan's two fellow stars, Lorne Greene and Michael Landon. Greene
was in Baltimore when news reached him that afternoon of the death. He flew immediately back
to Los Angeles to help comfort Dolph. "Dan was really like a son to me," Lorne said proudly as
a tear trickled down his cheek. Likewise, Mike, who was in Kentucky visiting relatives, broke
down in tears. "Why? Why? Why Dan?" he said with heartbroken remorse. "We were all so
close and I came to know him and love him as a real brother."

Although a millionaire many times over, Dan Blocker lived quietly and simply. What he prized
most was his privacy, and though a superstar, always managed to maintain it. He gave few
interviews, the last appearing in the December 1971 issue of TV Radio Mirror.

Therefore, Mrs. Blocker did what she knew Dan would have wanted, following his death. She
decided that her husband's funeral should be as quiet and private as the life he lived.

Dan's lifeless body was taken from the hospital to the McCormick Mortuary in Inglewood.
However, as a matter of formality it was returned to the hospital the next day for a complete
autopsy to establish the exact cause of death. It was established that the clot had developed
after the surgery and spread to the lungs.

The danger of a blood clot forming after any type of surgery is always present, though usually
discovered in time to dissolve it before reaching a fatal stage. Dan Blocker had the best of care
while in the hospital for the operation, but somehow the clot formed overnight and rapidly en-
veloped his lungs.

"This can happen," one physician told us, "In a matter of hours an embolism can cause
death."

Mrs. Blocker requested no flowers be sent to the funeral home, or later to the burial site in
De Kalb, Texas, where Daniel Blocker was born. Instead, she suggested that in memory of her
husband, donations be made to the Guyot Foundation Home for Girls (721 Crenshaw Blvd.,
Los Angeles, California 90005).

Not until after his death was it revealed that Dan Blocker was the anonymous founder of the
home, which serves as a haven for unwed mothers, unwanted girls and young women addicted
to drugs or alcohol. "Dan never wanted any publicity connecting him with the home," Mrs. Rosa
Guyot, a widow, who runs the place told us. "Buf if it wasn't for him many young girls' lives
would have been destroyed completely. Dan liked young people and was aware of their problems.
I had been taking care of foster babies and knew the Blockers when they lived in the valley
where he first discussed the idea for the home.
"He helped start it a year or so ago. Frankly, we were disappointed over the lack of interest and
the home is far from being adequate. Only Dan's good heart kept it going, and what has become
so pathetic is that we have room for only 20 girls and have to turn away many girls every week."

Dan Blocker quietly helped others, too. He never turned away a friend in need, and only recently
became involved with some college students doing ecology research in Northern California. He
only asked those he helped one favor, "Please don't tell anyone that I am involved."

As planned, Dan Blocker was buried in the family plot in De Kalb, a friendly community on
Route 82 in the Red River delta of Southern Texas. Noble Bates of the Hanner Funeral Home super-
vised the private burial attended by only 20 members of the immediate family, including Dolph,
the children and Mrs. Mary Blocker (Dan's mother) who still lives in the small town.

Placed in a modest casket, Dan's body was laid to rest eternally between his father, Ora Shack
Blocker, who died in 1960, and a sister, Ora Virginia Blocker, a sister Dan had little memory of
as he grew up. She died in 1933 at age 11 when he was only a toddler.

The services were as modest as the man whose philosophy of life was based on peace and
happiness. Rev. Arthur Frey of De Kalb's First Baptist Church briefly praised Dan Blocker as a
man of gentle heart and good will. Then the casket was lowered into the grave of the town's age-
old Woodmen Cemetery. Though no flowers were requested, the grave was surrounded by bou-
quets of bright spring flowers--some picked from the gardens of the townfolks who knew Shack
and Mary Blocker way back when they helped pioneer the land before moving across the state
to O'Donnell, Texas, where Dan spent his boyhood.

In memory of her only son, Mary Blocker, too, placed some roses she had picked that morning
at the head of the casket. No! There were no tears of hysterical remorse, only bleeding hearts
for a man whose friendly smile was larger than the size of his native state.

Thanks to film, Hoss will live for years to come in reruns of nearly 400 segments of Bonanza
he appeared in over the seasons. This should prove a constant tribute to Dan Blocker, whose
personal life was no different from the now legendary character he portrayed.

Julian Goodman, president of NBC, in paying honor to his network's star probably described
him best of all: "He was a man of great energy, but he was a gentle man who refused to allow
his sons to own a gun or go hunting -- 'until the animals learn to shoot back.'"

Last edited by tv star collector : 03-25-2009 at 03:18 PM.
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Old 01-16-2009, 05:42 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing that tv star collector. Dan was my favorite on Bonanza. I always thought he played himself on that show. A big teddy bear but don't get him angry. He left us way too early. I miss the big guy.
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Old 03-25-2009, 12:15 PM   #3
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that is a very nice Tribute to Dan Blocker
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Old 05-04-2009, 12:45 AM   #4
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That's a beautiful tribute. I always loved Dan Blocker. It seems he was playing himself on Bonana, a gentle giant. Such a shame, he was finally going to enjoy what he had worked so hard for, and death snatches him away. Gone but not forgotten. I always have a special thought for Dan Blocker, when watching Bonana. I hope his wife and children coped as best they could. A terrible loss.
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Old 09-24-2009, 02:29 PM   #5
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Many years ago I was a paramedic and was doing my clinical rotations in early 1972. I trained at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood, CA. Part of my clinicals was not only at Daniel Freeman, but also Centinella also in Inglewood, CA and UCLA Med. Center.
I was doing IV training at Centinella when Dan Blocker was a patient there. He was a very nice humble guy and didn't mind that it took me forever to find a vein while in hospital post-surgery (him being so large it was difficult to find a good location)
Unfortunately, I was also at Daniel Freeman in the ER when he was brought in via ambulance with his PE. As part of the ER team we all assisted in CPR prior to his being placed on the vent. We were all saddened that we didn't make a difference.
I've often thought of this, and the coincidence of the whole affair.
Per my observation of the man in the very short period I interacted with him. He was a true gentleman and an all around good guy. Kidding with the staff etc.
I'm sure it was quite painful for him while I kept poking him time and again, but he just kept joking with me. I forget what we discussed after I'd finally struck "gold" but it was just a nice chit chat with an average Joe.
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Old 09-24-2009, 06:32 PM   #6
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Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

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Old 10-07-2009, 12:13 PM   #7
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Old 10-07-2009, 07:21 PM   #8
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I really appreciate the beautiful thank-you note, Reverend Jim. Dan was
probably one of the best-loved actors on television and, yes, he is still
missed after all these years.
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Old 04-07-2010, 08:01 PM   #9
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Default a Tributr to Dan Blocker

I thought he got out of the hospital too early for Mother's day.to visit his mother,of a heart attack. His son,Dirk on LHOTP looks just like him,It's incredible.
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Old 03-05-2011, 09:06 PM   #10
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He would've been in his 80's if he would've lived. Hoss was my favorite character. Ben had 3 handsome sons.
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Old 03-06-2011, 01:11 AM   #11
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Hoss Cartwright has to be one of the most beloved characters in the history of TV. Dan Blocker was an important part of Bonanza, one of the best all-time TV shows in my opinion.
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Old 03-06-2011, 01:21 AM   #12
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I've been watching Bonanza regularly since September as one of my local stations has been airing it. Hoss is my favorite character on the show and I agree with everyone else that Dan was basically playing himself on the show. It's sad that he died so young but it is comforting to know he is so fondly remembered by so many people.
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Old 01-18-2012, 06:28 AM   #13
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that was a beautiful tribute -
such a historical show as far as tv shows go -
he was the heartbeat of the show -
[icant believe that they tried to keep the show going without him! didnt even explain it... ]
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