Ed Asner died on Sunday at age 91. And as he did, his family was by his side.
The Emmy-winning actor became famous for the TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant” and the movies “Elf” and “Up.” Variety reports that Asner passed away with his relatives surrounding him. His publicist confirmed as much.
Asner had two daughters, Kate and Liza, and two sons, Matthew and Charles. Matthew and Liza are twins, according to People.
Asner’s family mourned him on Twitter Sunday. They posted to the actor’s official Twitter account: “We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head – Goodnight dad. We love you.”
The Ed Asner Family Center Helps Special Needs Families
Before he died, Asner helped found the Ed Asner Family Center. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit aims to provide enrichment programs for the special needs community. Asner founded it with family members: his son, Matt, and daughter-in-law, Navah. The center draws its inspiration from the actor’s three autistic grandsons. Asner referred to them as “neurodiverse.”
“Our education system is broken. Enrichment has been replaced by test scores and metrics completely taking personality out of the equation. In the world of special education this is even more true,” Asner wrote on the organization’s website.
The center caters to the whole family of neurodivergent individuals. For special needs people, it has arts and career advancement classes. It also offers family therapy, mom support groups, dad poker support groups and sibling art support groups.
The center serves the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California.
Asner Also Served as Screen Actors Guild President
In addition to his acting credits, Asner also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was president from 1981 to 1985.
According to Variety, it was the 1980 SAG strike that drove Asner to run for office. The strike targeted the major TV networks and movie studios. And it stretched from July 16 to September 25. At the heart of negotiations was the SAG’s request for 12 percent of the gross profits on home video markets, per Americans for the Arts.
As president, Asner fought to better employment and compensation terms for actors. He also pushed to merge SAG and SEG (Screen Extras Guild). Meanwhile, Asner was also outspoken on foreign policy issues of the time. He criticized America’s engagement in El Salvador and South Africa’s apartheid policies.
His political activism landed him in the crosshairs of more conservative actors and network executives. In fact, CBS’s cancellation of “Lou Grant” was thought by some to be motivated partly by Asner’s political differences with the head of CBS at the time.
But characteristically, Asner was unrepentant. He once said his activism was not a “luxury, but a necessity.” And he remained outspoken about his beliefs until the day that he died.