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FORMER TV, FILM ACTOR DICK YORK DIES AT 63
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FORMER TV, FILM ACTOR DICK YORK DIES AT 63

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Actor Dick York, who played the befuddled husband of a nose-twitching witch in the 1960s television series ``Bewitched,' has died at 63, a funeral home spokesman said.

York died Thursday afternoon at Blodgett Memorial Medical Center in Grand Rapids, said David Pederson of Pederson Funeral Home in the nearby town of Rockford, where York lived.He had suffered for several years from emphysema and a degenerative spinal condition but worked to raise funds for poor people.

For five years, York played Darrin Stephens, the stressed-out husband to Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha on the popular ABC series about a witch who could work miracles with a twitch of the nose who was married to a mortal advertising executive.

Agnes Moorehead played York's overbearing mother-in-law, also a witch, who perpetually mangled her son-in-law's name.

``Bewitched' was the second-highest-rated series of the season in its debut year, 1964-65, second only to ``Bonanza,' and stayed in the top 10 most of the years York was on it.

York was replaced on the show by Dick Sargent in 1969 when problems stemming from an old back injury, including overdependence on painkillers, forced him to leave. The show continued until 1972.

York was born Sept. 4, 1928, in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He began his acting career as a child, doing radio in Chicago, where his family moved when he young. At 15, he starred in the network radio show ``That Brewster Boy.'

His other television credits included a 1962-63 series based on the 1944 film ``Going My Way.'

In addition to his television work, he appeared in several films, including ``My Sister Eileen' and ``Inherit the Wind,' in which he played the schoolteacher whose teaching of evolution prompts the celebrated 1920s ``monkey trial.'

He also appeared on Broadway in the mid-'50s in ``Tea and Sympathy' and ``Bus Stop.'

He and his wife, Joan, moved to Rockford, about 12 miles north of Grand Rapids, in 1985 to be near her mother after the death of her father. The couple had planned only a short stay until York's health worsened.

Despite his ailments, York was active in raising funds for the homeless, working by telephone while largely confined to his home. He called his private fund-raising effort Acting For Life.

``I'm ready to fight city hall and scream and yell about everything,' he said in a 1988 interview. ``It seems to to me, when somebody's hungry, you feed them. If they don't have a place to live, you find them a place to live.'

The Rev. George Heartwell Jr. said York made donations to the Heartside Clinic in Grand Rapids, which provides medical assistance to homeless people.

``It was kind of one of those angels that drop into your life,' Heartwell said.

``He would spend hours at a time, calling all over the United States if he thought there was a chance of something getting thrown away, to essentially salvage it for the homeless,' said Dennis Sturtevant, director of the Dwelling Place, another Grand Rapids organization that received contributions from York.

York once said the financial problems his family faced during the Depression were one of the reasons he was inspired to help the poor - and one of the reasons he became an actor.

``I saw the look on my mother's face when she had to give us second-hand Christmas presents,' he said. ``That's how you learn to act. Because you don't want your parents to know you know.'

York is survived by his wife; five children; 13 grandchildren; and a sister. Funeral services are scheduled for today in Rockford.

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