I’ve had family in town for the past few days, so I wasn’t able to write an obituary for veteran character actor James Rebhorn, who died in his home last Friday night from skin cancer. But it looks like I didn’t need to, because Rebhorn wrote one for himself and it’s far better than anything I could have said to commemorate the man’s life. Rebhorn, who appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during his long career, was diagnosed with melanoma in 1992 and was aware of his deteriorating condition in recent months. Inspired by a play in which a character wrote an obituary for herself, he did the same thing: his version is called “His Life, According to Jim,” and it comes from his New Jersey church’s website.
Rebhorn appeared in films like Independence Day, Meet the Parents, Scent of a Woman, My Cousin Vinny, Blank Check, The Game, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and on shows ranging from “Wiseguys” to “Seinfeld,” “Homeland,” and many more. It’s always sad to see someone pass away that you grew up watching on the big screen, and this might be a weird thing to say, but sometimes I feel like the loss hits home even more with character actors. The knowledge that we won’t be able to perk up in our seats and say, “Hey, it’s that guy!” is tough to swallow, especially when they’re as prolific as Rebhorn was. He’ll be deeply missed. Below is the complete obituary he penned for himself:
James Robert Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother, Ardell Frances Rebhorn, nee Hoch, loved him very much and supported all his dreams. She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing. His father, James Harry Rebhorn, was no less devoted to him. From him, Jim learned that there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship. A job well done rarely takes more or less time than a job poorly done. They gave him his faith and wisely encouraged him to stay in touch with God.
He is survived by his sister, Janice Barbara Galbraith, of Myrtle Beach, SC. She was his friend, his confidant, and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters.
He is also survived by his wife, Rebecca Fulton Linn, and his two daughters, Emma Rebecca Rebhorn and Hannah Linn Rebhorn. They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor. Rebecca loved him with all his flaws, and in her the concept of ceaseless love could find no better example.
His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it. Time is flying by. His son-in-law, Ben, also survives him. Jim loved Ben, who was as a son to Jim, especially through these last months.
His aunts Jean, Dorothy and Florence, numerous cousins and their families, and many devoted friends also survive Jim. He loved them all, and he knows they loved him.
Jim received his BA at Wittenberg University and his MFA at Columbia. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Nu Zeta 624, a life-long Lutheran, and a longtime member of both the AMC and ACLU.
Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn’t have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.
–Jim Rebhorn, March 2014
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