Lee Aaker, who starred in the 1950s children’s television series The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin, has died at 77 after suffering a stroke on April 1.
The news was announced via a Facebook post by former child actor and activist Paul Petersen.
“Saying Goodbye to Lee Aaker,” he wrote, alongside a picture of a young Aaker.
“You have to be a certain age to remember Rin Tin Tin,” he continued. “Lee Aaker passed away in Arizona on April 1st, alone and unclaimed…listed as an ‘indigent decedent.'”
“As an Air Force veteran Lee is entitled to burial benefits. I am working on that,” he concluded the post. “God knows when a sparrow falls.”
According to Peterson, Aaker had battled drug and alcohol abuse for some time, with only one surviving relative, who wasn’t able to help him.
“You are around just to please everyone,” he told The Hollywood Reporter, saying it marked “another sad end to a child star’s life.”
“And when there’s nothing left, they are done with you,” he said.
In an interview in 2011, Aaker said he got US$250 (approx. $330) an episode to start with on Rin Tin Tin, which ran for five seasons from 1954 until 1959.
His salary was later increased to US$500 (approx. $650) an episode during the final season.
Born in 1943 in California, Aaker starred as Rusty in The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin, which was about a boy being raised by US Cavalry soldiers after being orphaned.
He went on to appear in episodes of The Donna Reed Show, Route 66, The Lucy Show, Make Room for Daddy and The Magical World of Disney in the early ’60s.
However, the child star didn’t work much more as an actor after this, leaving Hollywood at age 20.
He then went on to work as a carpenter for over 20 years, later teaching underprivileged children and people with disabilities to ski at Mammoth Mountain in California, living off his SAG pension of US$1500 (approx. $2000) a month.
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