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Ernest Borgnine never retired from craft he loved, his family says

July 8, 2012 |  4:09 pm

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Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine never retired from the craft he loved and continued to work nearly until the time of his death Sunday, his family said in a prepared statement.

Borgnine, who was 95, "had been in excellent health until a recent illness" and his family said they were in "great shock and sorrow" over his death. Borgnine’s last film, called "The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez," debuted at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival in April.

“Mr. Borgnine's family is deeply appreciative of the love and support of his many friends, associates and fans around the world," the family’s statement said.

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Borgnine died of apparent kidney failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 1:30 p.m. Sunday surrounded by his wife, Tova, and other family members, according to Harry Flynn, his longtime publicist.

Flynn said Borgnine went in for a routine checkup Tuesday — his “95,000-mile checkup,” Borgnine joked — that “turned out to be a little more serious than we thought.”

The son of poor Italian immigrants, Borgnine appeared in more than 200 movies. He had a knack for tough-guy roles, such as Fatso Judson, the brutal sergeant in 1953's Oscar-winning "From Here to Eternity." But his career was also a varied one. In "Marty," he was a lovelorn butcher. On the cartoon show "SpongeBob SquarePants," he gave voice to the character Mermaid Man.

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Borgnine continued performing well into his 90s, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 2007 for his performance in the television movie "A Grandpa for Christmas" and an Emmy nomination in 2009 for his turn in the final episode of the long-running TV drama "ER."

Before his film career, Borgnine spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy, his family said, and he spent much of his time in Hollywood championing veteran-focused causes and charities. He received several awards honoring his work, including the Navy Memorial's Lone Sailor Award and the California Commendation Medal.

Borgnine was also named an "honorary chief petty officer" of the Navy in 2004.

Where to find Borgnine's star on the Walk of Fame

"Of all my successes in life, including all that I've earned in acting, being in the Navy is my greatest achievement," Borgnine said at the 2004 ceremony in Washington, D.C. "The camaraderie and the work ethic is something that I always remembered ... and it's what got me through things the rest of my life."

Borgnine will be buried at a private service, his family said.


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Photo: Ernest Borgnine at the Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 2011. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times