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Ginnie Newhart, the wife of famed comedian Bob Newhart who came up with the innovative idea for how to conclude his Vermont-based sitcom by combining with it with his earlier Chicago-based show, has died. She was 82.
She died Sunday at their home in Century City after a long illness, publicist Jerry Digney told The Hollywood Reporter. She and Bob recently celebrated their 60-year wedding anniversary.
Bob Newhart starred for six seasons (1972-78) as clinical psychologist Bob Hartley on CBS’ The Bob Newhart Show opposite Suzanne Pleshette as his wife, then played Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon on CBS’ Newhart for another eight seasons (1982-90), when his wife was played by Mary Frann.
In one of the most admired series finales in TV history, Newhart winds up with a cheeky scene in which Dick wakes up in the middle of the night as Bob Hartley — he’s in bed with Pleshette in their Chicago apartment — suggesting that his entire second series had been a dream.
The idea for the ending came to Ginnie during a Christmas party that Pleshette happened to be attending.
On Twitter, Newhart actress Julia Duffy wrote that Ginnie “gave me the best advice in everything from decorating to childbirth and children and yes, husbands. I loved her.”
One of three daughters, Virginia Lillian Quinn was born in New York on Dec. 9, 1940.
Her dad was prolific character actor Bill Quinn, who started out in vaudeville. He went on to portray Mary Richards’ father on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the blind bar patron Mr. Van Ranseleer on Archie Bunker’s Place and the father of Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). He was married to Mary Catherine Roden for 54 years until his 1994 death.
Ginnie and Bob were set up on a blind date by comedian Buddy Hackett (Ginnie was baby-sitting Hackett’s kids at the time).
“Buddy came back one day and said in his own inimitable way, ‘I met this young guy and his name is Bobby Newhart, and he’s a comic and he’s Catholic and you’re Catholic and I think maybe you should marry each other,’ ” she recalled in a 2013 interview.
They played pool at Buddy and his wife’s home the first time they met.
“It was just silly,” she said in 2005. “I was 20, 21, 21, and I think Bob was 32. And every time somebody would sink a ball in the pocket or whatever you’re supposed to do, [we’d] run around the table with our cue stick singing ‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’
“We didn’t see each other for a while. And then I was working as an extra on a Jerry Lewis movie that I couldn’t tell you the name of, but it was at Paramount. And Bob was doing [the 1962 film] Hell Is for Heroes. He came to visit me on the set and I wasn’t there. … So I went over to his set. He wasn’t there. And we sort of lost touch because he was traveling a lot.”
They eventually got together, and after they dated for a while, he proposed, saying, “Would you go to St. Louis in the winter if you had a ring on your finger? Would your parents let you go?” They wed on Jan. 12, 1963.
She often appeared in the background of his shows and with him on the couples’ game show Tattletales. She was a celebrity player on Super Password as well.
The Newharts were great friends with Don Rickles and his wife, Barbara, and the couples often vacationed together.
Last year, Bob, 93, revealed to Parade magazine his secret to a long marriage.
“The marriages of comedians, no matter how stormy, seem to last a long time, and I attribute it to laughter,” he said. “No matter how intense the argument you’re having, you can find a line, and then you both look at each other and start laughing. It’s over, you know?”
In addition to her husband, survivors include their children, Robert Jr., Timothy, Courtney and Jennifer, and 10 grandchildren. (One of their daughters is nicknamed “Buddy.”)
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