Robert Urich had a wonderful career as an actor in Hollywood. However, he faced some challenges that ultimately led to his death. His wife was who saw him through his most difficult moments. His death even left his son with a new career goal.
Urich got his big break when he starred as Burt Reynolds’ younger brother in a 1972 production of "The Rainmaker." After that, he went on to star in many other popular shows and movies such as “Magnum Force,” “Final Run,” and “S.W.A.T."
The actor was born in December 1946 to parents John P. Urich and Cecelia Urich. Urich’s father was hard of hearing because of the noisy environment he worked in as a steelworker, but his mother lovingly took care of him. Urich had a normal childhood and grew up aspiring to be an actor in Hollywood.
A portrait of Robert Urich circa 1980 | Source: Getty Images
Urich was married twice, to Barbara Rucker from 1968-1974 and then to Heather Menzies from 1975 until his death in 2002. The actor had no children with Rucker but adopted three with Menzies; son Ryan and daughters Allison and Emily.
While Rucker and Menzies were both actresses, Urich’s love story with each of the women was different. Urich was older in his second marriage and was, therefore, more considerate of his second wife. Being more mature proved to be the solution to a happy marriage, as his marriage to Menzies was significantly longer than his marriage to Rucker.
Robert Urich as Dan Tanna in 'High Roller' an episode in the US TV series 'Vega$', 1978. | Source: Getty Images
Urich and Menzies met in an acting class when they were reading for a commercial together and later starred in an episode of "The Love Boat" together. While Menzies thought that Urich was a “smart aleck” initially, he won her over at the end of the class. Urich then said:
“After that [their initial date] I may have spent a night or two in my own place by myself. She did the same. But, after that, we were together all the time.”
Robert Urich and Heather Menzies on the set of "The Love Boat" Season 2, USA, 1978 | Source: Getty Images
As soon as Urich’s father came to know of Menzies after his son met her in the acting class, he knew that she was the woman that his son would eventually marry. He was proven right a short time after that.
EXPANDING THE FAMILY
While Urich and Menzies both had flourishing careers in Hollywood, children were on the horizon for the couple. Urich and Menzies were married for a short time when Menzies fell pregnant with the couple’s first child. She revealed:
“We were not trying and we were over the moon.”
Robert Urich, wife Heather Menzies, son Ryan Urich ,and daughter Emily Urich at the 59th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade 1990, Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images
The young actress, unfortunately, miscarried the couple’s first child. The same thing happened twice more with their second and third pregnancies and their spirits were fading. They desperately wanted to start a family but were only experiencing heartbreak.
After both working on projects and traveling, they finally found a way they could expand their family. The couple had decided to adopt and were put on an adoption waiting list. Urich revealed they waited a long time before they could adopt their first child. The pair ended up expanding their family by three children through adoption.
At the peak of his career, Urich enjoyed a simple, quiet home life with his wife and three children. The actor was doing well on-screen and was in the spotlight more than ever, but one thing he could count on was that as soon as he got home he could settle back into family life.
Robert Urich on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", 1991 | Source: Getty Images
However, something was brewing beneath the surface that would shake Urich and his family to their core. The actor’s health was in danger, and he would be fighting a losing battle for several years. Urich's wife was the first person he told about his concerns.
Urich and Menzies enjoyed power walking together and on one of these walks, amid their talk of future plans and ideas, Urich mentioned to his wife that while he was in the shower, he found a small lump on his body, the size of a pea. Menzies recalled wondering:
“How could anything that small be a threat?”
Actor Robert Urich and wife Heather Menzies attend the 48th Annual Golden Globe Awards 1991, Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images
Only later, when Urich went to have the lump checked by a doctor, the couple found out just how threatening something so small could be. The actor was diagnosed with synovial tissue sarcoma, a form of cancer that affects the soft tissue and often affects areas such as the arms, legs, feet, and joints.
The actor bravely fought the disease for a couple of years, with Menzies always by his side supporting him. However, on April 16, 2002, in Thousand Oaks, California, Urich finally lost his battle with the disease.
Heather Menzies is comforted by Emeril Lagasse after funeral services for the Robert Urich, April 19, 2002. | Source: Getty Images
After her husband's death, Menzies committed to helping people battling cancer. She founded the Robert Urich Foundation, which raises funds for cancer research after Urich died. She revealed:
“I vowed to make it my life’s mission to continue to fight for his dream and vision: a world where the word ‘cancer’ is simply a memory of a war we have won,”
Unfortunately, the "Sound of Music" actress died on Christmas Eve, 2017, after losing her battle with cancer. Ryan Urich revealed that the actress was surrounded by her family at the time of her death.
Robert Urich, wife Heather Menzies, and son Ryan Urich attend the Third Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on February 23, 1997 | Source: Getty Images
Although Urich was proud that his son starred with him in "Survive the Savage Sea," the young man decided to become a doctor after watching his father struggle with cancer.
The boy was studying biology when his father underwent his third round of cancer treatment. Urich’s son, Ryan, said:
“I went into medicine because I couldn’t help my dad medically, but maybe I can help someone else,”
Ryan Urich believed that his father was a wonderfully strong man who played with his grandchildren right up until two days before he passed away and remembers him fondly while helping others who had his father's condition.
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