Sesame Street actor David Smyrl is Dead!

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David Smyrl, the Emmy-winning actor best known for his role as Mr Handford, the retired firefighter who ran Hooper's Store on Sesame Street, has died. He was 80.

Smyrl was diagnosed with lung cancer in January, his wife, Cheryl, said. He died on Tuesday at Lankenau Medical Center outside Philadelphia.

'He was funny,' Cheryl Smyrl said. 'I could say so many good things about him. He was loved by so many people. He was a mentor to a lot of children. He was a family man, loyal, true and faithful.'

A north Philadelphia native born on September 12, 1935, Smyrl performed as a poet in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, his wife said.

His television career also began in New York in the 1970s, on the show Express Yourself.

Smyrl moved to California to work on the sitcom Benson in the 1970s, where he earned him a People's Choice Award.

He also worked as a writer and actor on The Cosby Show, playing contractor Sam Lucas.

From 1990 to 1998, Smyrl played the smiling, singing store-owner on Sesame Street. He succeeded Leonard Jackson, who played a grumpier Handford.

Smyrl had won the job by acting out a script where he had returned from fighting a fire, worn out, and talked of retiring and buying a little store, according to a 1997 story in the Record-Journal, a Connecticut newspaper.

'You get to act stupid,' Smyrl told the newspaper. 'It's fun! I get to do fun things like dance with Gloria Estefan.'

He enjoyed the role, because he loved children, Cheryl Smyrl said.

Since Smyrl left the role in 1998, the Sesame Street character Alan, played by Alan Muraoka, has run Hooper's store.

Prior to his days of writing and acting, Smyrl served in the Army in the 1950s.

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