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Sunday, March 4, 2018


Growing up, I spent many an evening with friends watching the 10:35pm rerun of M*A*S*H on WWL, Channel 4 in New Orleans. Still a great show, over thirty years after it has signed off.

Unfortunately, we must say good by to one of it's greatest members, David Ogden Stiers, always to be remembered as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III.

One of the strengths of M*A*S*H was as characters left the show, they were replaced by other characters who were not the same. Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) was a strict Regular Army officer, replacing the walk over Army Reservist in Lieutenant Colonel Henry Black (McLean Stevenson). With Charles, he replaced the hapless and incompetent Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville). Whereas Frank was always unable to get the better of his tent-mate opposites, Charles was not going to take anything from Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) and BJ Honeycutt (Mike Farrell).

He was also a much deeper character than Frank, as arrogant as the day is long, but with abilities to back it up. Charles was a superb surgeon, not as good a businessman, and not enough to evade Colonel Potter's gaze.

One of the more moving scene of Charles was in 1980s Moral Victory, when he helped a concert pianist realize, although his hand is no longer able to play the instrument, his gift for music is still there. And always will be. In a human moment for the reserved Boston Blue Blood:
Don't you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be. The gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You have performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you've already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world - through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they're for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.

One of my favorite quotes of the man was in a recording to his parents, "Please send me some deodorant. I don't care about the others, I just don't want to offend myself!" From the episode, this signing off quote:

Back to Charles' love of music, the final episode of the series, Goodby, Farewell, and Amen, shows him working with a North Korean army band. At the end, the members are killed in an artillery strike. One of the few things that gave him relief from the war, music, is now a reminder of the war.

Charles was famous for his goodby phrase, "Gentlemehhhhhhhhhn." From the final episode, his goodby to the M*A*S*H. Loretta Swit said he was a very private person in real life, and none of the cast had his private phone number. The scene where he hands her a book, the inscription was his actual phone number. The reaction was real.

RIP David Ogden Stiers. Another great one goes. As it was well said, it's not how you're buried, it's how you're remembered. You will be remembered well sir.

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