Beloved TV Actor Pat John Dead at 69

Pat John, who starred in The Beachcombers, has died. He was 69. John, a member of the shíshálh First Nation, starred as Jesse Jim in the series for almost its entire run. The Beachcombers is one of the longest-running drama series ever produced in Canada with 19 seasons.

John died at a relative's house in his hometown of Sechelt, British Columbia, reports the Coast Reporter. His co-star Jackson Davies told the Canadian Press John suffered health problems in recent years. Davies praised John for his natural acting ability, which helped him play one of the first roles for an Indigenous character in a modern setting on Canadian television.

"I don't think we ever thought, 'Oh, we are making a statement here,' or maybe I was just too naive," Davies said last week. "It was a show about this kid who happened to be Indigenous and he ends up getting a partnership with this Greek immigrant guy... and being a log salvager."

The Beachcombers debuted on CBC Television in October 1972 and ended in December 1990 after 19 seasons and over 380 episodes. The show centered on the relationship between Nick Adonidas (Bruno Gerussi), a Greek-Canadian log salvager, and Jesse Jim (Paul), who traveled on a logging tug along the Vancouver coast. The Beachcombers aired on PBS in the U.S. and around the world, making Paul and Gerussi international stars. Gerussi died in 1995.

After The Beachcombers ended, Paul began fishing and clam harvesting. His only other acting role came in 2002 for The New Beachcombers, in which he made a cameo appearance. However, Paul stayed in contact with his colleagues.

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"We talked most weeks," Davies told the Coast Reporter. "I'm so glad we always ended our talks with 'Love you, PJ,' 'Love you, Jackson.' We got closer through the years. The road hasn't always been smooth for Pat, but he never complained once. And at the end, there was an incredible peacefulness to him."

Davies, who played RCMP officer Constable John Constable on The Beachcombers, told the Coast Reporter he wished Paul had a better idea of the impact he had on young children watching the show. "I don't think Pat realized what his impact was on a generation of kids," Davies said. "I'm not just speaking about Indigenous kids. There are kids all around the world who admired him. He probably didn't realize how important he was. For a lot of non-Indigenous people, it was the first time they saw someone Indigenous living in the community. He wasn't one of the 'bad guys' on the outside."