Jean Hughes Williams, whose abrasive, impertinent voice called out "Hey, Culligan Man!" for nearly 30 years, has died of cancer.
The veteran radio actress was 70 when she died Friday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.
She and her then-husband, Dallas Williams, moved to Southern California from the state of Washington shortly after World War II and opened a small advertising agency. She had been active in repertory theater in Seattle.
Williams said Tuesday that he wrote the original copy and served as the straight-man announcer for the comedic commercials. He would extol the virtues of Culligan soft water services to his impatient wife, who constantly interrupted the line of patter. The commercials, which began in 1958 on KMPC radio in Los Angeles, always ended with her husband encouraging her to call her Culligan Man for water service but her dimwittedly misinterpreting the instructions and instead yelling "Hey, Culligan Man!"
Originally, Williams said, the spots were sponsored by local Culligan dealers. But within a year, according to Peter Hronek of Culligan's national headquarters in Northbrook, Ill., the commercials had proved so successful that they were being broadcast across the country.
Mrs. Williams, who was divorced in 1970, continued to record the impudent voice until the onset of her illness last year. She also had been heard regularly on the "Jolly Green Giant" animated TV commercials during the 1960s.
The "Hey, Culligan Man!" slogan is still in use, Hronek said, but not in its old form.
Mrs. Williams is survived by her sons, Dallas Jr. and Bayard. Funeral services were private.