Ernest Borgnine :: My Dad’s Brother from a Different Mother (and Father)

Ernest Borgnine died today, Sunday July 8, 2012. He was 95yrs old.

After my Dad died, I had a greater appreciation for death. That is to say, I had a greater understanding for the grief that overwhelms those dealing with the loss. My Dad’s death also changed the way I looked at the overwhelming responses from the public when a celebrity dies.

When my Dad died, I wanted the world to stop and mourn with me. When I see the world mourn the loss of those in the public eye, my heart aches for the families dealing the loss of their own loved one, unknown to the public.

That being said there are some people within the public eye that do mean a great deal to me. Ernest Borgnine was one of those people.


“YOU DON’T KNOW WHO ERNEST BORGNINE IS?!” My sister exclaimed.

I do not remember if she was talking to me by phone, email, or handwritten letter. I simply remember the exclamation. I also remember she mentioned McHale’s Navy, and I immediately knew to whom she was referring.

It was no use though. My older sister (by 10yrs) did not appreciate my momentary lapse. My attempts to convince her I was very familiar with Ernest were unsuccessful.

About a week later, I received a card from my sister. Inside the card I found a picture. I laughed out loud.

My sister snapped the picture in the Summer of 1991. She was living in California at the time, and she and her husband attended an air show. Ernest was the host.

The picture my sister mailed me so many years ago hangs on my fridge. Some people have mistaken Ernest for my Dad, which is one reason why I think I was always drawn to Ernest.

Like Ernest, my Dad was a military man. Like Ernest, my Dad was a robust man. Like Ernest, my Dad lit up a room with his smile and his deep voice. Unlike Ernest, my Dad didn’t age quite so well, dying 30yrs younger than Ernest.

My Dad would have celebrated his 83rd birthday this year, while Ernest celebrated his 95th. Because my Dad did not age as gracefully as Ernest, the picture of my Dad taken in the Summer of 1993 resembles the 1991 picture of Ernest, though Ernest is 12yrs his senior.

I’m not going to write about Ernest’s acting history or list the films and television shows in which he appeared and/or starred. I’m writing this post because I admired the man. [You can access the AP news story here.]

When I called my sister to tell her the news that Ernest died, I made the comment that Ernest always reminded me of Dad. I think it was an ah-ha moment for my sister. She quickly agreed with me, saying she wondered if that is why she liked him so much. Probably.  That, and the fact that Ernest always smiled, greeted his fans, and supported the military. Just like my Dad.

Rest in peace, Ernest. The world lost a bit of light with your passing. If you see my Dad, I hope you’ll sit down with him and have a beer. I think the two of you would get along incredibly well.


“I don’t care whether a role is 10 minutes long or two hours, and I don’t care whether my name is up there on top, either. Matter of fact, I’d rather have someone else get top billing; then if the picture bombs, he gets the blame, not me.” Ernest Borgnine, January 1917 – July 2012.


33 thoughts on “Ernest Borgnine :: My Dad’s Brother from a Different Mother (and Father)

  1. Wonderful and heartfelt tribute of a man who we all grew up with. He’ll always be remembered. We have lost Sheriff Andy Taylor and Lt. Commander Quinton McHale in just a matter of a week. Wonderful photo of your dad.

    1. Thanks, Kim. I think I resemble my Dad (and his sister), too. Actually, the sister I spoke about in this post and I are the ones that resemble our Dad most.

  2. I hadn’t heard this news. I’ve seen Ernest so many times when hubby watched The Flight of the Phoenix. Great actor. Sorry your dad didn’t have as many years here, he must have accomplished his work early.

  3. Beautiful, Lenore, just beautiful.

    I felt similarly when Luciano Pavarotti died. Part of the reason he meant so much to me was because he was so inextricably associated with my father in my mind. I can’t feel sad about Pavarotti’s death without feeling sad about my father’s, and vice versa.

  4. From how you’ve described your father I can definitely see the resemblance… not only physically, but in spirit, too. To you, I mean. But also to Ernest (from what I know / have read about him anyway).
    AND I completely agree with Jules… these photos are wonderful, as always, Ms. D!

  5. Unfortunately, it IS true that you have to experience the loss of someone truly near and dear before you can appreciate the pain and grief that comes with death. In the case of Ernest, It was our 40 year old son who called to let us know that “Lt. Commander Hale” had died! I was suprised that he would even remember the show, but obviously it had stuck with him through the years! Lenore ..what a handsome man your father was … and a kind, good gentleman as well, it seems! It must run in your family genes! Blessings to you and yours as your thoughts linger once again on the loss of your father.

    1. I think it is super cool that your 40yr old son called you up to inform you. I’m 43. I don’t know what age doesn’t know Ernest. I suspect your son and I are on the edge, though.
      Thank you for your kind words regarding my Dad. He was handsome, and he was loved by many. Blessings to you, too, Donna.

  6. Your Dad had a twinkle in his eye; so glad you shared the parallels between his and Mr. Borgnine’s personalities in this lovely post.

    Also that “time heals all wounds” stuff? Balderdash. I miss my Dad every day, and thoughts of him make me laugh and sob all at once.

    Hugs to you

    1. I’m glad you liked it, MJ. Balderdash is right. Like you, I miss my Dad every day, with thoughts making me laugh one minute and tearing up the next.
      Hugs back to you, MJ.

  7. I know what you mean. It was so hard when my father died. I still miss him every day. And it’s sad to see the passing of these old actors whom we’ve grown up with.

  8. When I see the world mourn the loss of those in the public eye, my heart aches for the families dealing the loss of their own loved one, unknown to the public.

    So well said. And yet, like you, there are one or two public figures whose deaths have rocked me. Thanks to Ghost, my long-time favorite movie, Patrick Swayze was one such public figure. I still can’t wrap my mind around his absence.

  9. I’m sorry you lost your dad so young. The passing of the older generation is sad to me, and as you said, the actors of our childhood are a very visible reminder of that.

    1. You know what, Peg? I sincerely appreciate you expressing sorrow at the fact that I lost my Dad ‘so young’. While I’ve forgiven the person and her ignorance, I will never forget her comment to me when my Dad died. She was a coworker, and I had just returned to work. When she asked his age and I told her ’65’, she said, “Oh, he was old.”
      I was appalled. She was probably in her mid 30s or early 40s at the time. (I was 25.) 65 old?! What? I think not. Especially when it is YOUR parent. Anywhoo…. thank you. I needed to hear what you wrote.

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