VANCOUVER (CP) - Norma Macmillan of Vancouver, who was the gentle voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost and Gumby, has died at age 79.
"It was very sudden," said Thor Arngrim, who was married to Ms. Macmillan for almost 47 years before her death Friday.
"We were just blown away, and I was just devastated."
Arngrim, 72, described his wife as a "beautiful, vivacious, intelligent human being filled with compassion."
Ms Macmillan, the host of a program for seniors on Vancouver's Co-op radio, was the voice of cartoon characters that captivated a generation.
They included Gumby and Sweet Polly Purebred, girlfriend to Wally Cox's heroic shoeshine boy in Underdog.
Ms Macmillan got her start as a stage actor. Arngrim was co-founder of Vancouver's first year-round professional theatre company, Totem Theatre.
One of his hires was Ms Macmillan, who had studied speech at London's Trinity College.
"We weren't attracted to each other in the beginning, but she was a superb actress, and she could type," he said, laughing.
In the early '50s, the couple moved to Toronto and then New York, where Ms Macmillan worked for CBC Radio and Arngrim made films for the National Film Board.
In New York, Ms Macmillan landed the role of Casper.
In the 1960s, they moved to Hollywood, where Ms Macmillan became the voice of the bendable green Gumby in the ground-breaking claymation series Gumby and Pokey.
They raised two children: Alison, an actor who played Nellie on Little House on the Prairie, and Stefan, who works in Vancouver's film industry.
The couple returned to Vancouver seven years ago, planning to retire. But they were never busier, Arngrim said.
Ms Macmillan did movies, including one with Katharine Hepburn, Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry. Her plays, including A Crowded Affair and Free as a Bird, were produced in Canada and the United States.
What did Ms Macmillan think about being best known as the voice of a cartoon ghost?
"She loved Casper," Arngrim said. "Almost on a daily basis, someone . . . would ask her to do it and she'd do it."
A funeral will be held Saturday in Vancouver.