‘The Waltons’: Creator Earl Hamner Jr. Said Ralph Waite’s Death ‘Felt Like’ He Had Lost His Father ‘Again’

by Keeli Parkey

In addition to playing a family on television, the cast and crew of “The Waltons” became like a family themselves. That was the message the show’s creator and narrator Earl Hamner Jr. shared during an interview with INSP.com before his death in 2016.

“They thought of themselves as brothers and sisters, and I’ll never forget Ellen Corby, the grandmother, who off-camera was grandma, as well,” Hamner said during the interview. “I remember her very well shouting to one of the children, ‘Stop that running on the set! You’re gonna fall over a cable and kill yourself!'”

So, when one member of that television family passed away, it was very painful for Hamner and its other members.

As fans of “The Waltons” will know, Hamner penned the book on which the popular family television show was based. That book was “Spencer’s Mountain” and it had its inspiration on Hamner’s personal experiences growing up. And, according to the interview, Hamner came to view one member of the cast as a stand-in for his real-life father.

That cast member was Ralph Waite. He famously played John Walton Sr. on “The Waltons.” And, because Waite played a version of Hamner’s father, the author had a special connection with the actor.

“He was a very deep man, a very gifted actor,” Hamner said during the interview. “Actors have the ability to give you great gifts, and Ralph’s gift to me was his image of my father.”

And, Hamner said Ralph Waite was very, very good at portraying his father on “The Waltons.” It was a portrayal that Hamner was very pleased with. Waite was able to capture who Hamner’s father was and bring that to the television screen with each episode of the beloved show.

“Ralph was able to portray a man he never met, but with such sympathy and yet with restraint … He was human, and I think Ralph projected that quality so beautifully,” Hamner said.

‘The Waltons’ Creator Said He Mourned Ralph Waite Almost Like He Did His Own Father

Ralph Waite passed away on Feb. 13, 2014. He was 85 years old at the time of his death. And, that loss hit Earl Hamner Jr. pretty hard. In fact, “The Waltons” creator and narrator said he felt as if he was losing his own father “again.”

“We were friends as well as actors, and when he died,” Hamner said of Waite. “I felt, in a way, that my father … I had lost my father again.”

Earl Hamner Jr. passed away just over two years after the actor he admired so much. He died on March 24, 2016. He was 92 years old at the time of his death. It was bladder cancer that reportedly led to his passing.