Actor Graham Jarvis dies

Last week, Malibu said goodbye to a gifted actor and humanitarian when Graham Jarvis, 72, died in his Pacific Palisades home from multiple myeloma.

Jarvis had one of those character faces we’ve seen a thousand times. Many remember him from his role as the obsequious Charlie Haggers on the ’70s sitcom “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” More recently, Jarvis played a soft-hearted grandfather on the current series “7th Heaven” and a foul-mouthed funeral director, named Bobo, in “Six Feet Under.” Since 1981, Jarvis also appeared in and narrated many performances staged by his wife, JoAnna Jarvis, founder and artistic director of Malibu’s Ballet by the Sea studio.

There was standing room only on Saturday during the memorial for Jarvis at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Santa Monica, where Jarvis taught Sunday school and sang in the choir.

“Graham, the showman, would have loved this,” said fellow actor Jerry Hardin. “It’s a packed house.”

Jarvis’ sons, Matt, 28 and Lex, 25, gave tribute to a loving father who snapped his suspenders, was often less than punctual and told long, rambling tales of his life as bedtime stories when they were young. Friends spoke of Jarvis’ fondness for giving extensive driving tours in New York City and, later, Los Angeles. He met his wife JoAnna through one of those legendary tours.

Born Graham Powley Jarvis on July 25, 1930 in Toronto, Canada, he attended school in Staten Island, N.Y. and London, Ontario before heading off to Williams College in Massachusetts, where he studied acting with classmate James Earl Jones.


At the age of 26, Jarvis joined the repertory company of the historic Barter Theatre in Virginia, which was founded during the Depression. Later, in New York City, three presidents attended his performances in the long-running Broadway show “Best Man.”

“The Rocky Horror Show,” on Sunset Boulevard, brought Jarvis to California where his TV and film career flourished. A character actor since age 19, Jarvis’ roles were sometimes a bit off center; from the turkey rights advocate who was attacked by a turkey on Thanksgiving Day on the nighttime drama “ER” to an interstellar junkman on “Star Trek Next Generation.”

But Jarvis’ celebrity was not the topic of Saturday’s memorial. Those who knew him shared memories of a compassionate and generous man who taught English to youths in a probation camp, drove homebound voters to the polls on election day and made octopus arms for preschool kids in his Sunday school class.

Says his wife, JoAnna, “He was intelligent, kind and very committed to humanitarian causes. He will be greatly missed.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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