His family confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, June 9, that Ernie died on Thursday, June 3, of cardiac complications in Los Angeles. His wife, Elaine Lively, and his five children — Lori, 54, Jason, 53, Robyn, 49, Eric, 39, and Blake, 33 — were by his side at the time.
Ernie had a history of health issues. He suffered a heart attack in 2003 and underwent stem-cell therapy treatment in 2013 in an effort to repair his heart after an angiogram caused a severed aorta and coronary artery issues.
The Beverly Hillbillies actor married Elaine in 1979. They welcomed two children, Eric and Blake, in July 1981 and August 1987, respectively. He also adopted her three children from her previous marriage: Robyn, Lori and Jason. While the Gossip Girl alum is the most recognizable face in the brood, all of Ernie’s children are actors.
The Air America star was born in Baltimore in January 1947. He worked as an English professor and served as a lieutenant in Vietnam before trying his hand at acting. In addition to working as an acting coach for fellow performers, his credits included Passenger 57, Turner & Hooch, The Dukes of Hazzard, Shocker, The Man in the Moon, Seinfeld and The West Wing.
Ernie notably portrayed Blake’s father in 2005’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its 2008 sequel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. The actress starred as Bridget, the athletic one among her friend group who traded a pair of jeans with her pals — played by America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn. The foursome became real-life besties after filming the movies together.
The Maryland native remained a supportive presence in the A Simple Favor star’s life even when they were not working together. He and Elaine attended the December 2016 ceremony in honor of Blake’s husband, Ryan Reynolds, when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The couple’s daughters James, now 6, and Inez, now 4, made their first public appearance at the event. The pair later welcomed daughter Betty in the summer of 2019.
In addition to his wife and children, Ernie is survived by sons-in-law Reynolds, 44, and Bart Johnson, daughter-in-law Lani Lively, nine grandchildren, and his sister, Judith.