Willard died Friday night of natural causes. His daughter, Hope, said he passed "very peacefully … He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever." Willard died two weeks before the premiere of his final TV series, Netflix's Space Force, where he plays the father of Steve Carell's character -- a role that was a nod to him starring in NBC's 1978 failed TV pilot Space Force. "Fred Willard was the funniest person that I've ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man," tweeted Carell, who also co-starred with Willard in Anchorman. Willard's final tweets on Monday paid tribute to his "old friend" Jerry Stiller, whom he first met in the 1960s while play in the same clubs as Stiller & Meara. From Fernwood 2 Night to Everybody Loves Raymond to Christopher Guest mockumentaries to, most recently, Modern Family, "Willard was one of those actors who made you smile at first sight," says Mike Barnes. One year ago today, the Los Angeles Times profiled Willard finding solace in the loss of his wife Mary by becoming a regular on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, playing comedic roles in sketches. In January, in one of his final appearances on Kimmel's show, he played the director of PR for Carnival Cruises. “I didn’t see it as helping him out as much as it was just that he’s one of the funniest people in the world,” Kimmel told the Times last year. “And wouldn’t it be nice to bring him here so he’s surrounded by a lot of supportive people?” Kimmel tweeted of Willard's death: "There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits." Willard earned four Emmy nominations, three for his guest-starring role as Hank MacDougall on Everybody Loves Raymond and one for playing Frank Dunphy, the father of Ty Burrell's character on Modern Family. "Our beloved friend and one of the world’s funniest people has passed. Rest In Peace Fred. We all love you." Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal tweeted. "Rest In Peace sweet @Fred_Willard," tweeted Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson. "You will always be a true original and I am so honored that our lives intersected. No one will ever come close to replacing your genius."
TOPICS: Fred Willard, Netflix, Everybody Loves Raymond, Fernwood 2 Night, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Modern Family, Space Force, Jerry Stiller, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Martin Mull, Phil Rosenthal, Steve Carell, Steve Martin, Obits