Robert Urich was known throughout the world as a tough guy, having starred in such television programs as VEGA$ and Spenser: For Hire. However, many audience members didn’t realize that, while Robert Urich was famous for doing battle with tough foes on the screen, he would end up having to fight an even tougher battle later on in his life. As well, unlike the scripted episodes of the television programs that made him famous, this was a battle that he wasn’t going to win. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the tragic death of Robert Urich and his wife.
Robert Urich was a television actor was was most popular for playing a sleuth in various series, including VEGA$ and Spenser: For Hire. In 1975, he was married to actress Heater Menzies, who is perhaps best known for playing one of the Trapp children in the beloved 1965 musical film The Sound of Music. They would stay together for several decades, and wouldn’t be driven apart until tragedy struck. Both Urich and Menzies would end up meeting tragic ends, separately.
Despite his tragic end, things didn’t start out too bad for Robert Urich. The Emmy-winning actor saw a good deal of fame at his peak, and still managed to receive steady work leading up to his untimely demise. His very first role in television came in 1973, with a minor role on the television program Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. From there, he would go on to a minor role in the television program S.W.A.T., giving him a taste of the more action-oriented roles he would become most known for. Before long, he was given a more meaty role in the television program Soap, a primetime comedy meant to function as a parody of popular soap operas at the time. His role in that program would only last for a season, at which time he was killed off for the first season’s big cliffhanger ending. However, greater things awaited the aspiring television actor, and this was merely the first step.
After his role on Soap ended, Urich went on to find an even greater role for himself, that of Dan Tanna, a private detective in the series VEGA$. This hit series, which ran from 1978 to 1981 on the ABC network, catapulted the actor to somewhat of a household name, and solidified him in the mind of an audience as a tough guy who knew how to get to the bottom of a case. Although the series didn’t last as long as one might expect, the image of Urich as a tough guy persisted, and he eventually found a similar role as the title character in the television program Spenser: For Hire. This series, which was based on the Spenser book series by Robert Parker, aired from 1985 to 1988, solidifying a fairly successful decade for the television star. After the series ended, Urich would continue to find sporadic work on television, although his toughest case was still yet to come, and it would be one that the actor wouldn’t be able to crack.
Perhaps Urich’s most famous role after his peak of success would come in the form of The Lazarus Man, in which the actor played a wandering man who was suffering from amnesia. It was on the set of this show, though, where the first signs of Urich’s inevitable downfall would first rear their ugly head. You see, during the production of The Lazarus Man, Urich learned that he was suffering from a rare type of cancer known as synocial cell sarcoma. He was upfront with the production company about it, telling them that he would need to undergo treatment but that he was still willing and able to perform. They signed an agreement allowing him to continue working, but ended up canceling the show before it’s second season.
Feeling that the show was cancelled as a result of his diagnosis, Urich would eventually sue the production company, Castle Rock Television, for a sum of around $1.5 million in 2000. Even in the midst of the lawsuit, though, Urich was incredibly cordial, and ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed amount. According to him, it was a simple disagreement, and everyone involved was a good person. Sadly, though, Urich wouldn’t live on to shine his positive outlook for very much longer. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to click the like button to show your support for more content like this being made in the future. As well, subscribe if you want to be the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on the way!
Robert Urich ended up passing away from his sarcoma in 2002, leaving behind his wife, Heather Menzies, who fought alongside him every step of the way. The two lasted through over 25 years of marriage, and fought the cancer together until the end. However, Urich’s passing wouldn’t be the end of Menzies and her own personal battle with the demon known as cancer. Before we get into that, though, let’s take a quick look at Menzies herself.
Menzies, despite appearing in The Sound of Music, was never quite as big of a star as her husband. However, she was every bit as talented. When her family moved from Canada to Los Angeles when she was just a teenager, Menzies began taking a serious interest in show business, landing her part in The Sound of Music when she was only 14 years of age. Although that was arguably her biggest role, she would continue finding sporadic work in show business afterwards, even meeting her future husband on the set of a commercial for Libby’s Corned Beef Hash. She was both an actor and a ballerina, and she used this experience to the best of her abilities in any job that she could get. Other notable roles that she performed in include minor roles in the television programs Bonanza, Dragnet, and The Bob Newhart Show. However, she also managed to get a few feature film credits under her belt, including in the films Piranha and The Computer Worse Tennis Shoes.
Despite her talents and skills when it came to acting and dancing, Menzies found her true passion when she met her husband, and subsequently became much more focused on her family than on her career. Heather Menzies and Robert Urich had three children together, and managed to keep one of the most secure and healthy relationships in Hollywood history, despite the hardships that the two would eventually face. Their close bond makes it not at all surprising that Menzies herself would become incredibly passionate about the subject of cancer, and she would dedicate her life to forming the Robert Urich Foundation after her husbands passing. The foundation, which was founded to help further research regarding sarcoma, was a passion project for Menzies, and one that would help her fill the void left by her late husband. However, this battle against cancer would eventually go on to take on a new meaning for Menzies, as she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, at which point she only had four weeks left to live.
Heather Menzies passed away on Christmas Eve of 2017, surrounded by the family that her and Robert Urich had created together. Their three children stuck with her until the very end, just as Menzies had done for her husband over 15 years prior. Many would find it somewhat ironic that the woman who persevered and helped her husband through his cancer diagnosis only to wind up dedicating her entire remaining life to fighting cancer would end up passing away from the disease, especially in the short amount of time she did. It’s an incredible tragedy, but one with a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. Both Urich and Menzies will continue to be defined not by their deaths, but by the love they left behind, both in the form of their children and their passion for battling the devastating illness that they both inevitably succumbed to.
When all is said and done, Menzies was likely not all that afraid of leaving behind this world to rejoin her husband of so many years, and, despite the tragedy, there are many who would view this sad tale of a decades-long struggle as one with a somewhat happy ending, however bittersweet. People, both famous and non-famous alike, will continue struggling with cancer, yet hopefully the love and work that Urich and Menzies left behind, apart and together, will help alleviate some of that pain for future generations. The Robert Urich Foundation continues to operate in the hands of the two star’s children, including their son, Ryan Urich. As well, Ryan grew up to become a doctor after the experiences of his parents, in hopes that eventually he would be able to make a difference for people destined to a similar fate.
There’s certainly a lot of pain and sadness in the tragic tale of Robert Urich and his wife, Heather Menzies, but there’s also a good deal of both love and hope. The two loved each other until the very end and beyond, with the late Urich’s wife dedicating her entire life to fighting the disease that took her husband until her own passing at the hands of a similar fate. In their marriage, we can see a perseverance and love that is all-too-rare in relationships, especially ones that occur in the public sphere. The two lasted together for over two decades of marriage, and their love was still growing strong after both of their flames went out. As well, that strong love managed to be passed down to their children, who kept the flame alive by dedicating their own lives to helping those who were experiencing a similar pain. There is a lot of darkness in the world, but there is also a lot of light, and the tragic tale of Robert Urich and Heather Menzies is just one small example of both blossoming out of the same place.
If you’re a fan of either Robert Urich or Heather Menzies’ screen work, comment down below to share what your favorite moment from their career was! Or, if you’d like, simply share what you think is the most hope-inspiring bit of this tragic Hollywood tale. As always, like the video to support more content like this being made in the future, and subscribe and hit the notification bell to be the first to know when more content is on it’s way!