Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode
Dennis Weaver as McCloud
Speaking on Ecolonomics
On Emerald Point NAS
In the 1966 movie, Way...Way Out

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Testimonials to Dennis Weaver


Burt Reynolds

"He was a wonderful man and a fine actor, and we will all miss him," said Burt Reynolds, who appeared with Weaver in "Gunsmoke" in the early 1960s.

James Arness

"We went right up to the top and stayed there for the first six years when Dennis was on. Those were our highest-rated years. Dennis and I became over the years fast friends and stayed friends through the last 50 years.''

We became "a family people came to love,'' said Arness, who is retired and watches reruns of his show on TV Land. "On Saturday nights, we'd get complaints from the ladies who wanted to have a dinner party and at 10 at night all the guys would leave to turn on the TV and watch 'Gunsmoke.'''

"He was such an integral part of the show, and people loved his character of Chester," Arness told the Los Angeles Times. "He and I used to go out on appearances in the early years - we traveled all over the country together at fairs and rodeos - and his character was just indelibly etched in the minds of millions of people."

"Over the years Dennis and his wife, Gerry, were very close friends of ours. The last time I spoke with Dennis was during the 50th anniversary celebration in Dodge City last year. We both worked on the 50th anniversary DVD and I am glad that we did because it is the last thing that Dennis and I will do together. Our friendship lasted over 50 years and I will always treasure the memories of our times together."

"We really liked each other a whole lot and it’s just a shock and sadness to see him go and not be here anymore. I thought the world of him."

Weaver was "a very, very skilled actor. He played the country character Chester but he was trained on the New York stage,'' Arness said.

Steven Spielberg

Dennis Weaver's movie Duel was directed by a young unknown named Steven Spielberg. Weaver played Dave Mann, a motorist menaced by a homicidal trucker. "I loved Dennis Weaver," Spielberg later said. "I was a big fan of his from (the Orson Welles movie, Touch of Evil). In that, he reached a level of anxiety and paranoia that I envisioned his character arriving at in the last act of (Duel). It was that character he played in A Touch of Evil. Indeed, in Duel, Weaver gave shape to a Babbitt-like character whose dialogue consisted mostly of voice-over narrative.

"He was a willing and enthusiastic participant in much of the physical driving that was at the center of Duel, " Spielberg said.

While lauding him as a "wonderful actor," Spielberg said Weaver's "love of the environment" and desire to make "the world a better place" seemed to take precedence over his career.

Linda Gray, who played Sue Ellen Ewing on the long-running "Dallas" television show, recalled Monday how a chance conversation with Weaver's wife at the health-food store the couple operated helped launch her own career. When Gray mentioned to Weaver's wife that she was an actress, the actor got her a role on his hit 1970s show McCloud. "We've been family ever since," Gray said. "His spirit will always live on."

Clint Howard, brother of director Ron Howard, said Weaver introduced his parents, Jean Speegle and Rance Howard, in 1947 when the three were drama students. Ron played Opie on the Andy Griffith Show, starred in television's Happy Days and became a successful movie director. Clint played opposite Weaver in Gentle Ben. "Because of Dennis, Ron and I exist. … Dennis was a great guy," said Clint Howard after Weaver's death.

Missouri State Representative Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said Weaver was always ready to help a good cause here in his hometown of Joplin, Missouri.

“Whenever we needed a fundraiser, he'd fly in a few Hollywood actors and help out,” Richard said. “But he never let you feel that he was something other than a regular person. He never forgot his friendships back home.”

Richard said Weaver and his wife, Gerrie, were always ready to go to lunch with friends and see how the old hometown had changed whenever he made it back to Joplin.

“He was a fun guy to be around and always interested in what you had to say,” Richard said. “He and his wife were very health conscious. He was a little eccentric with the environment. He could have retired years ago, but he felt his calling was with the environment. He never made any money off of it, but he poured himself and his resources and followed his dream of a better environment.”

Actress Jacqueline Scott was a guest on eight Gunsmoke episodes and played Weaver's wife in the movie Duel. She lived less than 20 miles from Weaver in Southwest Missouri.

Scott said she first met Weaver when she guest-starred on the series “Gunsmoke,” in the late 1950s when Weaver was playing his role as Chester Goode.

“He was a wonderful actor and a wonderful human being. He was so funny it was almost impossible to work with him because you couldn't keep a straight face. I did several episodes of the old half-hour 'Gunsmoke' series with him.”

Missouri Southern State University President Julio Leon said Weaver visited the university many times and was always “a very down-to-Earth person who was interested in you or what you had to say.”

“There are many students who have an interest in the ecology and still want to make sure the economic process works,” Leon said. “Many say you can't have both, a clean environment and a strong economy, but Dennis Weaver said it doesn't have to be that way.” In 1993, Weaver created the Institute for Ecolonomics at Missouri Southern.

According to a written release from the Missouri Southern State University, ecolonomics is a word Weaver coined to illustrate the necessary synergy between a healthy ecology and a vibrant economy in order to create a sustainable future. The Institute of Ecolonomics has been headquartered at Missouri Southern since August 2005.

Weaver attended Joplin Junior College befoire it evolved into Missouri Southern. He left in 1943 to become a U.S. Navy pilot in World War II.

Rob Wood, director of the Institute for Ecolonomics based at Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, says Weaver's love for ecolonomics will continue on to benefit future generations.

“We'll keep on moving forward,” explained Wood, executive director for the Institute of Ecolonomics, “This is an idea, and an organization based on sustainability.”

Wood last spoke with Weaver approximately three weeks before his death.

“Dennis was somebody who truly lived his passion to help others,” Wood said. “Not only for today, but he always looked toward tomorrow.”

Former Joplin schoolmate and friend, Jack Parker, talked about Weaver's success as an actor.

“It didn't change him the least bit,” said Parker. “He was a good old Joplin boy until the day he died. He was proud to be from Joplin and until recently he came back every chance he got.”

Parker remembered Weaver as a top high school athlete.

“He was very friendly in school, a little mischievous, but always with a smile on his face. He hardly ever got upset and he liked the girls. At that time, most of us guys were kind of shy, not like the boys today. He was a super athlete. He was slim and very muscular.”

Weaver was politically liberal. He and his wife were planning to move back to California to take on “The Terminator.”

“He felt that (California Gov.) Arnold Schwarzenegger was undoing some of the good environmental work he had done and he was going to go back and work on that,” Parker said. “The last time I talked to him, he had had an offer on the ranch.”

(Information from The Carthage Press, AP, ABC, LA Times,, James & Bloomberg)


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