Fans of the popular sitcom "Home Improvement" might not recognize Earl Hindman's face.
It was the actor's voice that would almost always give him away, said his wife of 27 years, the Rev. Molly McGreevy, of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford. "Earl had a very deep voice," she said. "It was very rich, very warm and very recognizable."
Mr. Hindman, 61, of Stamford, who died of cancer on Dec. 29 at Stamford Hospital, was best known for his role as the wise and eccentric neighbor, Wilson, on "Home Improvement." The television series ran for eight years on ABC and starred Tim Allen.
On the show, Mr. Hindman's face was always partially obstructed by the fence that separated his home from that of the sitcom's main character, Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, played by Allen.
Before "Home Improvement" went off the air in 1999, Mr. Hindman -- a Stamford resident since 1976 -- commuted back and forth to tapings in Los Angeles. "When they were taping, he'd be in L.A. for two or three weeks, and then he'd be back for about two weeks," McGreevy said.
Before landing the job on "Home Improvement," Mr. Hindman played Lt. Bob Reed for 14 years on the ABC soap opera, "Ryan's Hope."
"He was the kind of actor you depended on," said Helen Gallagher, one of his "Ryan's Hope" co-stars. "He was a very steady and very talented actor and such a down-to-earth human being."
Mr. Hindman's friends and family said yesterday the actor was remarkably unaffected by the relative fame his television work brought him. "He was not impressed with himself -- not in the least," McGreevy said. "He was a person who was never changed by success."
Even as his acting career flourished, Mr. Hindman remained a modest man who enjoyed stamp and coin collecting, listening to country music and playing poker with his friends, McGreevy said. He also liked to build models from his collection of Erector sets, which he bought on the online auction site, eBay.
Three weeks ago, while undergoing chemotherapy, Mr. Hindman shared a room with another cancer patient who was an avid "Home Improvement" fan.
"When she heard Earl's name, she said, 'Oh my God. That's my favorite show,' " McGreevy recalled. "We spent the whole rest of the chemo session laughing. . . . He was the funniest human being I ever met. Even after 27 years of marriage, he could always crack me up."
Ilene Kristen, who played Hr. Hindman's sister on "Ryan's Hope," recalled the actor's sense of humor. "He was a hoot," she said. "He had great comedic timing -- and was just a naturally funny person."
Mr. Hindman was versatile and performed in a range of theater, film and television productions. "He had this tremendous ability to do both half-hour sitcom work and classics like Shakespeare and Moliere," said Paul Hilepo of Hartig Hilepo Agency, which represented Mr. Hindman.
During a career that spanned more than three decades, Mr. Hindman took the stage in "Henry V" at the New York Shakespeare Festival, acted in films, including "Three Men and a Baby" and "Silverado," and made numerous guest appearances on such drama series as "Kojak" and "Law and Order."
Most recently, he performed in "Julius Caesar" at the Theatre for a New Audience in New York City. His performance won him the Actor's Equity Callaway Prize for best performance in a professional production of a classic play. The award was to be presented Jan. 9.
Born Oct. 20, 1942, in Bisbee, Ariz., he was the son of Eula Hindman of Tucson, Ariz., and the late Burl Hindman. Before moving to Stamford, Mr. Hindman lived in New York City and Tucson.
In addition to his mother and his wife, he is survived by a sister, Anna Dean Shields of Payson, Ariz.; and a brother, Ray Hindman of Tucson.
Private funeral services for Mr. Hindman will be at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times