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Jerry Lewis’ Disowned Son Joseph Died Penniless from an Overdose at 45 in 2010 – His Brother Blamed Their Father for His Death

Oyin Balogun
Sep 27, 2021
08:55 A.M.
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Jerry Lewis brought hope and smiles to many with his comedic performances, music, and humanitarian deeds. However, he failed to do the same in his household during his 91 years on earth.

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The icon, who had seven children, had an odd relationship with his kids, most of whom accused him of being an abusive father.

His relationship with his youngest son, Joseph Lewis, whom he later disowned, was perhaps the most complicated. After leaving his father's wings, Joseph's life seemed to have taken a downward spiral until his death at 45.

Picture of Jerry Lewis | Photo: Getty Images

Picture of Jerry Lewis | Photo: Getty Images

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THE SAD LIFE OF JOSEPH LEWIS

Born to the iconic comedian and former singer Patti Palmer, Jerry's first wife, Joseph Lewis' life was once a fortress of fame and fortune. As the youngest son of their brood, Joseph easily became the apple of his dad's eyes.

Coupled with their similar phenotype and passion for the arts, the duo seemed inseparable, or so it seemed to the world, until a shocking revelation surfaced. In 1989, Joseph granted an interview with National Enquirer, where he accused his dad of beating his kids.

Portrait of Jerry Lewis circa 1957 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

Portrait of Jerry Lewis circa 1957 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

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Jerry's son described growing up with the icon as "pure hell," and it was such a nightmare that he doubted if his dad ever loved him. Following the interview, Jerry disowned his son and cut all ties with him.

Even after his son's death, the Hollywood legend never forgave him but continued nursing years of hatred. Joseph's ex-wife, Kim, revealed the actor hated his son so much, he refused to sponsor his funeral.

Portrait of late actor and comedian Jerry Lewis | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Portrait of late actor and comedian Jerry Lewis | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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DESCENDING TO ADDICTION

Joseph believed his dad despised him on account of his gender. He revealed the late actor always wanted a daughter and became disappointed when his last kid also turned out to be a boy after his birth in 1964.

His dad's maltreatment drove him to drugs, alcoholism, and endless therapy sessions which eventually became his downfall.

During his teenage years, Joseph began using drugs and alcohol as an outlet and a means of coping with his ordeal. As he grew older, it became difficult for him to hold a steady job due to his addiction.

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Jerry Lewis, his first wife Patti Palmer, and two of their sons | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis, his first wife Patti Palmer, and two of their sons | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Eventually, he developed manic depression, a condition that left him battling his own demons. Kim, who shared two sons with him, recalled how Joseph spent hours sorting baseball cards or locked inside for days, deep asleep.

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IT ONLY GOT WORSE

At the height of his suffering, Joseph tried to reach out to his father, sometimes sending him letters on the annual telethon for Jerry's kids. However, those letters always returned unopened.

Unable to retain a job, Joseph drifted from place to place, eventually becoming penniless. At the time, his three-year marriage to Kim had also ended.

Jerry Lewis, Patti Palmer, and four of his sons in California, in September 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

Jerry Lewis, Patti Palmer, and four of his sons in California, in September 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

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At some point during his painful sojourn, Joseph lived in a Los Angeles model but eventually ran out of money to pay for his room. The homeless man was forced to acquire a bunk in a church's homeless shelter.

JOSEPH'S DEATH

After struggling for years, Joseph Lewis finally passed away on October 24, 2009, after suffering a sudden heart seizure. The autopsy report revealed that he died from acute morphine intoxication.

He died in Utah, far away from his family. Speaking on his death, Kim voiced fears that her kids' father, who never wanted to be alone, may have ended up dying alone.

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Jerry Lewis' family in the late '60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Jerry Lewis' family in the late '60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Neither of the former couple's two sons had a relationship with their grandfather and only ever got to see him on TV.

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WHO KILLED JOSEPH?

Following Joseph's death, his oldest brother, Gary Lewis, called out their dad for abandoning his youngest son, which invariably led to his death.

The pop star insisted that if his dad had not cut ties with him two decades back due to his growing drug addiction, his health would not have declined to such an extent.

American comedian Jerry Lewis, circa 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

American comedian Jerry Lewis, circa 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

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During an interview, Gary explained that the legend's neglect led to Joseph's problems later in life. According to him, the neglect and abandonment made the father of seven responsible for his death.

JERRY'S THOUGHTS ON SON'S DEATH

Notably, Jerry has denied Joseph's claims of abuse and maltreatment. He also deems himself not responsible for his son's death, contrary to Gary's claims. Addressing Joseph's passing, the legendary singer once divulged:

"To this day, I don't understand it because it's unfair. Not unfair to me, but unfair to him. That he went that way made the unfairness stupidity. But he's my son, and he's gone."

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Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Despite knowing that he could do nothing about the loss, Jerry admitted he sometimes beat himself up. Thankfully, he had his wife of over three decades, SanDee, by his side.

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She always reminded him he was not to blame for his son's death. After all, the young man was already 25 when he let him roam the world alone.

Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

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JERRY HAD THE LAST WORD

The comedy legend passed away in 2017 after years of battling illnesses like prostate cancer, heart disease, and pulmonary fibrosis. He died of natural causes.

He was 91 at the time and left behind a will that shocked the world, proving him somewhat the evil man his kids painted him to be.

At the time of his death, the legend seemed to be on bad terms with his five living sons and made sure they never got to have a piece of his estate and vast empire.

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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In his last will, dated 2012, the humanitarian bluntly stated he was "intentionally excluding" his sons Christopher, Gary, Ronald, Anthony, and Scott, as well as his deceased son, Joseph, from benefiting from his estate in any way.

Instead, he left his vast empire to his widow, SanDee, and in her absence, their adopted daughter Danielle. The will created an uproar at the time, with more people becoming interested in the complicated details of his family life and relationship with his six kids from his first wife, Patti Palmer.

Perhaps, Joseph's son Bobby Lewis' take on the legendary comedian better describes him — a funny person with a dark side.

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