William Christopher passed away at 5:10 a.m. PST, on Dec. 31, 2016. The “M.A.S.H” star, best known as the affable Father Mulcahy, peacefully died at his home in Pasadena, California. The illness that took his life was non-lung small cell carcinoma, which was diagnosed 18 months ago.
According to his son, Christopher’s illness took a turn for the worse about three weeks ago. The star’s agent, Robert Malcolm explained that he did not suffer at the time of his passing and was under the care of the hospice team.
“M.A.S.H” co-star Alan Alda posted a tweet early Jan. 1, 2017. His condolences proclaimed that the show’s buddies intensely miss Christopher (Bill). Alda added that Bill had a Benevolent strength. Moreover, his gentle humor and grace were genuine not an act.
Loretta Swit, another co-star, explained everyone adored him and that Christopher was an outstanding humanitarian. She continued added, it was his fabulous sense of humor that contributed to his successful role as the Catholic priest in “M.A.S.H,” and “It was the most perfect casting ever known.”
The highly popular comedy ran between 1972-83, Alda, Swit and Christopher were joined by Gary Burghoff, Wayne Rogers, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan, Mike Ferrell, McLean Stevenson, and others. Father Mulcahy was an amateur priest on the series, but Christopher admitted that he had never boxed before and had no knowledge of the sport.
Christopher’s acting career began in New York, where his debut was “Beyond the Fringe,” a British review. After moving to California, he starred in the 1968 movie “With Six You Get Eggroll,” with “M.A.S.H” co-star Farr. In 1996-97, Christopher toured with Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”
He enjoyed making guest appearances on TV programs in the 80’s and 90’s. The shows included “Love Boat,” and “Diagnosis Murder.” Christopher also appeared in programs like “Mad About You,” and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” When viewers witnessed the loveable priest from “M.A.S.H” kissing a woman on the Lido Deck, they expressed feeling awkward and disturbed.
On Oct. 20, 1932, 84-year-old Christopher was born in Evanston, Illinois. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts in 1954 from the Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He married his wife, Barbara, in 1957. The couple had two sons; John and Ned. Their grandson, Gage, is an actor.
During college, Christopher studied classical Greek. He was particularly fond of Homer’s texts in their original format. His son, John explained his affinity for “The Iliad” was also a topic of conversation on the “M.A.S.H” set where he was seen reading the book whenever there was a break in filming.
The star and his wife co-authored a book about raising children with autism entitled, “Mixed Blessings.” The book detailed the couple’s experiences with the puzzling emotional and developmental disease; their son Ned is autistic. Christopher served an honorary chairman of the National Autistic Society, where he devoted his talents to aid in furthering the society’s ideals and programs.
By Cathy Milne
Chicago Tribune: ‘M.A.S.H.’ star, Evanston native William Christopher dies at 84
CNN: William Christopher, Father Mulcahy on ‘MAS*H,’ dies
TV Guide: Biography
Image by CBS Television Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License