Actor Russell Johnson, better known as “The Professor” from Gilligan’s Island passed away yesterday.
It turns out he grew up in Ashley in Luzerne County.
Newswatch 16 sat down with one man who got to know the actor well in his later years.
On TV he played one of the most well-known professors of all time.
Russell Johnson played Roy Hinkley on Gilligan’s Island in the 1960s.
The actor died of kidney failure at his home in Washington state.
A little more than 15 years ago, Tony Callaio, of West Pittston, reached out to him after he realized the actor was from Ashley.
“I then searched for a web site in his name, and he had one, and I wrote to him, and within hours, he wrote back to me,” said Callaio.
The two struck up a close friendship.
Johnson sent Tony a book he wrote, signed cast photos and other Gilligan’s island memorabilia.
They talked about Johnson’s years in the war, and of course the TV show that made him famous.
It’s unclear where in Ashley Russell Johnson grew up. In fact his house might not even be standing anymore, but he told Tony he always thought of Pennsylvania as home even though he didn’t come back to visit very often.
“We talked about everything from living here to his days at Gerard College, where he went,” said Callaio.
Tony said the actor lived on an island in Washington State and that he was a mentor to him.
The last time they spoke was two years ago when Johnson’s health started to deteriorate.
Then just when tony said he was thinking of calling Johnson again, news broke that he died of kidney failure.
“I was very upset, but yet I was very pleased to have the privilege to know him for all those years,” said Callaio.
A privilege to know not the professor, not the actor, but just Russell Johnson.