Comedy titan Jerry Lewis dies at 91

By Karen Butler  |  Updated Aug. 20, 2017 at 4:16 PM
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Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Comedian and actor Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91.

The news of his death was first tweeted Sunday by John Katsilometes‏, a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  

"Very sad to report entertainment legend #JerryLewis has died today at 9:15 a.m. at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91," Katsilometes‏' post read.

A second tweet from the writer cited Lewis' family as saying he died of natural causes surrounded by his loved ones.

The Hollywood Reporter said Lewis had been in poor health for many years, undergoing open-heart surgery, battling prostate cancer and suffering from the chronic lung disease pulmonary fibrosis.

The New Jersey-born entertainer was one half of the comedy duo Martin and Lewis, with singer and actor Dean Martin, in the 1940s and '50s, appearing in nightclubs, as well as in the films My Friend Irma, The Caddy, The Stooge, Artists and Models, Pardners and Hollywood or Bust, Variety noted.

After he and Martin had a falling out, Lewis went on to star in the classic movies The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, Cinderfella, The Nutty Professor and The Disorderly Orderly.

He had a huge following in France and accepted the country's Legion of Honor award in 1983. His final film Max Rose screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Lewis is also remembered for his decades of work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

R. Rodney Howell, current MDA chairman of the board, issued a statement praising him Sunday.

"The Muscular Dystrophy Association is deeply saddened by the death of beloved comedian, performer, humanitarian and former MDA telethon star and national chairman Jerry Lewis. MDA would not be the organization it is today if it were not for Jerry's tireless efforts on behalf of 'his kids.' His enthusiasm for finding cures for neuromuscular disease was matched only by his unyielding commitment to see the fight through to the end. Jerry's efforts on the annual MDA Telethon transformed the broadcast into an American tradition each Labor Day weekend for 45 years," the statement said.

"MDA and the families we serve will always be grateful for the thousands of hours he dedicated through the telethon, which provided MDA with a platform to honor and acknowledge our longtime corporate partners and educate the American public who generously donated millions of dollars for unparalleled research and services. Jerry's love, passion and brilliance are woven throughout this organization, which he helped build from the ground up.Though we will miss him beyond measure, we suspect that somewhere in heaven, he's already urging the angels to give 'just one dollar more for my kids. Thank you Jerry, you are our hero. God bless you. We send our deepest condolences to his wife Sam; his daughter, Danielle; his sons, Gary, Ronald, Scott, Christopher and Anthony; and the entire Lewis family."

Lewis hosted the telethon 1966-2010 and received the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences' Jean Hersholt Award for his charitable work.

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