Ernie Coombs

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Ernie Coombs
CM
Mr Dressup.jpg
Born (1927-11-26)November 26, 1927
Lewiston, M, United States
Died September 18, 2001(2001-09-18) (aged 73)
Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Resting place
ashes scattered at cottage in Maine
Ernie Coombs at Find a Grave

Ernest "Ernie" Arthur Coombs, CM (November 26, 1927 – September 18, 2001) was a children's entertainer who starred in the Canadian television series Mr. Dressup.

Television performances[edit]

Ernest Coombs was born in Lewiston, Maine, and pursued a career in children's entertainment after attending North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Maine. He was an understudy to Fred Rogers. He travelled to Canada in 1963 to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on an early version of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Rogers moved back to the United States three years later, but Coombs decided to stay in Canada, joining a new show called Butternut Square. Butternut Square ran from 1964 to 1967. During the run, Coombs appeared as the character in a stack show at the Poor Alex Theatre.[1][2]

After Butternut Square ended, Coombs developed Mr. Dressup, which became one of English Canada's longest-running and most beloved children's programs.[3] As Mr. Dressup, he presented arts and crafts, songs, stories and games for children with his friends Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's back yard. Casey wasn't given a unisex name intentionally, but it was a serendipitous choice because the character's childlike voice left Casey's gender ambiguous. Over the years, when viewers would ask Coombs whether Casey was a boy or a girl, he would ask, "What do you think?" However the questioner responded, he would say, "You're right!"[citation needed]

Later in the series, when the show's principal puppeteer, Judith Lawrence, retired, Casey and Finnegan were replaced by a small cast of anthropomorphic animal puppets. Coombs believed very strongly in gentle, wholesome children's programming that encouraged kids to use their creativity and imagination. In each episode, Mr. Dressup would dress up (hence his name) in a costume from his Tickle Trunk, and lead children in an imagination game. Many times his puppets would also appear in costume as well.

The series continued production until its final taping in February 1996, when Coombs retired. Repeats continued to be shown on CBC Television until they were discontinued in 2006.[4] After retirement, Coombs continued to work as an entertainer, playing roles in Ross Petty's Christmas pantomimes of Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Aladdin, and acted as a spokesman for children's charities.

Coombs also did a travelling stage show called "Tales from the Tickle Trunk." In this show he would share stories about the making of the Mr. Dressup show, as well as the origins, and fates, of some of the characters.

Personal life[edit]

Coombs lived with his family in the city of Pickering. His wife Marlene ran a day care in Scarborough (east Toronto), called the Butternut Day Care.[5] They had two children: Christopher (Kenneth) and Catherine (Minott). Marlene was killed in a traffic accident in 1992; she was walking on the sidewalk of Yonge Street in Toronto, when a car hit her.[6] The driver may have had a seizure, resulting in a loss of control of the vehicle.[7]

Coombs became a Canadian citizen in 1994. In 1996, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

Death[edit]

Coombs suffered a stroke on September 10, 2001, and died on September 18, 2001 at the age of 73.[8]

Coombs was cremated and his ashes scattered at his cottage in Maine [9]

Awards[edit]

  • 1989: A Lifetime Achievement Award from the Children's Broadcast Institute[10]
  • 1994: The Academy of Canadian and Television's prestigious Earle Grey Award, for excellence in Canadian television programming.[10]
  • 1996: Appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada
  • 1996: Gemini for best performance in a children's program[10]
  • 1997: Save the Children Award, for his many years of service as spokesperson for the Canadian Save the Children Foundation[10]
  • 2001: An honorary doctorate of laws by Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario[10]

Tributes[edit]

Google's commemorative doodle of their logo used on Nov. 26, 2012

A tribute was made to Coombs in the Canadian television show The Latest Buzz, where the school for which the show is set is named Ernie Coombs High.

Although he never used a computer, Google commemorated Coombs' 85th birthday with a Google Doodle on their Canadian website on November 26, 2012.[11]

Chris Whiteley wrote and recorded a song entitled "The Week That Ernie Died" as a tribute to Ernie Coombs.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ernie Coombs is TV's Mr. Dressup with Casey and Finnegan". Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 17 December 1966. p. 22. 
  2. ^ Dingman, Jocelyn (23 December 1966). "How to get through the day after the presents (zip!) are opened". Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 
  3. ^ "Degrassi tops list of Canadian shows". CBC News. 13 November 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mr. Dressup to go off the air". CBC News. 14 June 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Drew Hasselback (May 22, 1992). "Happy, 'gentle' woman dead in Yonge St. crash She was on her way to meet husband for night out at theatre". Toronto Star. p. A.6. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mr. Dressup's wife killed". The Hamilton Spectator. May 22, 1992. p. A.3. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Seizure suspected in fatal accident". Kitchener - Waterloo Record. May 23, 1992. p. A.3. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Ernie Coombs, "Mr. Dressup", dies after stroke". CBC News. September 19, 2001. Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5861208
  10. ^ a b c d e "Broadcasting Pioneer: Coombs, Ernie "Mr. Dressup" (1927-2001)". Canadian Communications Foundation - Biographies. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Google logo
  12. ^ CD review

External links[edit]

Multimedia[edit]