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Robin Williams Found Dead at 63; Suicide Suspected

Comedian and legend supported Israel, considered himself an "honorary Jew."
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/12/2014, 9:08 AM

Robin Williams (file)
Robin Williams (file)
Reuters

Comedian and actor Robin Williams, 63, was pronounced dead at 12:02 pm Monday in his Tiburon, California home, the Marin County sheriff's statement said, after receiving a call at 11:55 am that "a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing." He had last been seen at home at 10 pm Sunday.

"An investigation into the cause, manner and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff's Office," the sheriff's statement said.

"Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made."

Williams struggled with substance abuse and depression multiple times during his decades-long career, and was struggling again before being found lifeless. 

Williams supported Israel and considered himself an "honorary Jew," according to Jewish Journal Editor-In-Chief Rob Eshman Tuesday. 

Eshman recounts Williams's seriousness and humor at a 2005 Shoah Visual History Foundation event, where he cracked the following joke:

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Williams said in a Yiddish accent, “Welcome to Temple Beth Prada. This evening's meal will be milchidik, fleishadik, and sushidik.”

Eshman later spoke to Williams at the end of the event, after the comedian stayed until the very end. 

"This means a lot to me," Williams reportedly said - with no hint of comedy in his voice. 

Several tweets also reveal Williams's devotion to the Jewish community.

He leaves behind wife Susan Schneider and three children - Zachary, 31; Zelda, 25; and Cody, 22. 

"This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken," Schneider said.

"On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."

"He has been battling severe depression of late," his media representative Mara Buxbaum told CNN. "This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

Laughter: a legacy

Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951. He studied theater at the prestigious Juilliard School; his stand-up roots were in local nightclubs.

In 1978, he had his acting debut after he was cast as Mork, an alien visitor to Earth, for a 1978 episode of Happy Days. Williams was an instant hit, and returned to the small and large screen for a long line of memorable roles. 

Williams starred in a plethora of popular films, and was a staple in 1990's children films - playing the Genie in Aladdin (1992), Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Alan Parrish in Jumanji (1995). 

But Williams was also well-known for his poignant performances. He captivated audiences in his role as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam! (1987), excelled as John Keating in the 1989 drama film Dead Poets Society, and won an Academy Award in 1998 for his role as psychologist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting.

'Immeasurable talent'

News of Williams's death shocked the US Tuesday morning, as colleagues and admirers alike struggled to memorialize a cornerstone of American entertainment. 

"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between," US President Barack Obama said, in an official statement from the White House. "But he was one of a kind."

"He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit," Obama continued. "He made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most - from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."

Fellow comedians also reacted to the loss.

"I can’t believe the news about Robin Williams," Ellen Degeneres tweeted. "He gave so much to so many people. I’m heartbroken."

Steve Martin tweeted, "I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul."