(RNN) - James Avery, best known as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, died New Year's Eve. He was 68.
Avery played the stern foil to Will Smith's shenanigans on the sitcom, which aired from 1990 to 1996. His character's role was to give Smith's character a positive role model, often providing the takeaway lesson.
"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly," Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted. Ribeiro played his son Carlton on Fresh Prince.
A statement from his publicist, Cynthia Snyder, says the classically trained actor died due to complications from open heart surgery in Glendale, CA.
Avery also performed voiceover work for video games and cartoons, including Shredder in Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. He served as host for the PBS show Going Places.
Recently, he had cameos on Harry's Law, CSI, and Grey's Anatomy, and just finished shooting a new film with Zach Braff titled Wish I Was Here.
Born on Nov. 27, 1945 in Virginia, Avery grew up in Atlantic City, NJ. Avery joined the Navy and served during the Vietnam War. According to IMDB, after his military service, he moved to San Diego and wrote scripts and other items for PBS.
His work there won him an Emmy for production and a scholarship to the University of California at San Diego. He earned a Bachelor of Arts for drama and literature.
His wife, Barbara, was dean of the student life at California's Loyola Marymount University. The two were married for 26 years. Avery is survived by his wife, his mother Florence Avery of Atlantic City, NJ, and his step-son Kevin Waters.
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