Longtime Santa Fean ‘Emergency’ Actor Tim Donnelly Passes Away | Local News


Anyone walking past the Catholic Church of San Isidro when the red fire truck arrived at the scene on Saturday might have thought that a firefighter was mourned during a funeral service.

And in some ways, it was true.

Actor Tim Donnelly, who played easygoing firefighter Chet Kelly in the 1970s series Emergency!, was being buried. The City of Santa Fe Fire Department sent a truck, jacket and helmet to pay tribute to a man who helped publicize his work.

Donnelly, who lived in Santa Fe from 2003, died at age 77 of complications from recent surgery, his brother Dennis Donnelly said by telephone on Sunday.

A captivating mix of rescue action, humor and soap opera, Emergency! revolved around the emergency medical response team at fictitious Station 51 in Southern California. The show has proven to be extremely popular with viewers weaned off similar street action shows like Adam-12 and Dredge and is credited with drawing attention to the work of first responders. Emergency! ran six seasons, from 1972 to 1978.

Donnelly’s character could be expected to permeate any comedy scene, and his brother Dennis, who has directed some of the shows, said Tim “understood the role he was playing and took it. good game”.

Donnelly’s daughter, Ashley Horne, said in a phone interview that her father “was the part. He sort of lived the life of Chet. He was a joker and he had a little glint in his eyes. Deep down, he was a tender-hearted and very kind friend.

Donnelly often showed a puppy face in the role, and unsurprisingly, he became the actor most connected to the show’s basset hound mascot, Henry.

Dennis Donnelly said with a laugh that his brother knew a good thing when he saw her. “No one wanted to work with the dog except Tim,” he said. “He realized how much airtime he was going to spend working with this dog. He was going to be in a lot of hits with the dog.

Marco Lopez, one of Tim Donnelly’s partners in the series, wrote about the Emergency! Facebook page where Donnelly “was like Harry Morgan on Dredge, they both had that push of coming onto set with a joke or funny saying that would crack everyone on set and start our day.

Timothy Donnelly was born September 3, 1944 in Los Angeles. Her father, Paul Donnelly, held various positions, including as a production manager, in Hollywood for decades. Tim Donnelly entered the world of cinema as an actor for children and adolescents with the help of famous cult director Don Siegel, said Dennis Donnelly.

“Don Siegel put us in all the movies around that time, including Baby Nelson face, because he was [Tim’s] godfather, ”said Dennis Donnelly.

Tim Donnelly began working regularly on television in the 1960s, appearing in programs such as Dredge, Adam-12 and Hawaii five-0.

When the roles of actor dried up following the cancellation of Emergency! at the end of the 1970s, he changed course and began a long career as a painter of film sets, says his brother.

Edward Khmara, a Santa Fe resident, a childhood friend of the Donnellys in the 1940s and 1950s who reconnected with him in Santa Fe decades later, said Donnelly loved Santa Fe and quickly rose to prominence for his love of stray and often helpless animals. Donnelly took care of a number of feral cats and a family of skunks, who lived on his porch but occasionally roamed the house.

“I asked him, ‘Don’t they stink of the house?’ and he said, ‘Not at my house. I feed them! “” Khmara remembers, laughing.

During the Emergency!’In the heyday, Tim Donnelly was often recognized and sought after by fans for autographs, his lifelong friend Keith Ehlert of Santa Fe said.

Ehlert said there was a time when it seemed like Donnelly’s sense of fame was universal. The two men drove Ehlert’s four-wheel drive vehicle through the secluded and dry saline valley of California. After a sudden thunderstorm blanketed the road in mud, the two men walked towards a family of four whose vehicle had been blocked by a mudslide.

When Donnelly jumped out of the vehicle to see if he could help, the little boy in the family turned to his mother and said, “Mom, this is it. Emergency! Have been saved! “

Tim Donnelly was planning to attend a 50th cast and crew reunion of the Emergency! show in Los Angeles in January, his brother said. “Tim couldn’t wait to go,” said Dennis Donnelly.

The Los Angeles County Fire Museum exhibits much of the memorabilia from Emergency! and continues to honor the show. Dennis Donnelly said museum officials have contacted the Santa Fe Fire Department to ask if they can send a fire engine to his brother’s funeral.

Ashley Horne said if her father had seen the truck stop at her service on Saturday, “he would have smiled from ear to ear”.

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