Actor Joe Conley, who played kindly country storekeeper Ike Godsey on 1970s TV family drama “The Waltons,” died Sunday at age 85, former co-star Mary Beth McDonough, who played Erin Walton, wrote on Facebook.
“It is a a sad day,” McDonough wrote. “So sorry to let you know Joe Conley, our beloved Ike Godsey, passed early this morning , please keep him, (wife) Louise, and his family in your prayers . RIP Mr. Godsey.”
Conley’s wife Louise told the Los Angeles Times that the actor, who had dementia, passed away at a care facility in Newbury Park, Calif.
Fellow co-stars were quick to remember the actor. Actress Ronnie Claire Edwards, who played Corabeth, posted about Conley on her Facebook page. “It was one of the greatest pleasures of my television career to play Corabeth opposite Joe because he made me so much better,” she wrote. “I share all of your grief and appreciate your many condolences. He will be greatly missed but, thankfully, we may enjoy his work for years to come in the many reruns of The Waltons.”
Eric Scott, who played Ben Walton, also noted Conley’s passing on Facebook, writing, “A sad day…..Our beloved Joe Conley passed away yesterday morning. I always loved him and will miss him dearly. Please keep his wife Louise and his wonderful family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The show that made Conley famous came from a different era of television, some noted. “Dramas like ‘The Waltons’ have never received the attention they deserve, unfortunately, due to the nature of the family-friendly storytelling,” said Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of TV Media Insights, the first media outlet to report Conley’s death. “But the overwhelming response to the passing of Joe Conley only proves its value and the importance of the supporting cast.”
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Conley began acting after returning from military service in Korea, running real-estate companies on the side. He had reportedly just decided to give up acting and concentrate on that business when he won the role of Godsey, the kind storekeeper who married Olivia Walton’s cousin, snooty Corabeth. The couple later adopt a child together.
In a 1977 newspaper profile, Conley said he rarely worked on “The Waltons” more than two days a week, spending the rest of his time on his real-estate ventures. “I like the independence of doing both,” he said at the time.
“The Waltons” ended its run in 1981, and Conley continued to act sporadically, frequently returning for “Waltons” reunion movies. He also played a small role in the 2000 Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away.” His TV resume also includes roles on “The Brady Bunch,” “Knight Rider,” “Dragnet” and other shows.
In 2009, Conley published his autobiography, “Ike Godsey of Walton’s Mountain.”
In an interview for The-Waltons.com, Conley said he knew that the “Waltons” role had forever marked him. “To millions of people I am Ike Godsey,” he said. “People walk up and just call me Ike and carry on a conversation like we are old friends. I have to remember that for ten years I did visit their home every week. To them I am an old friend or a member of the family.”
Conley is survived by his wife Louise and four children.
His is not the only recent death in “The Waltons” family. Actor Paul Jenkins, who played the recurring character of Professor Parks on the show, died July 1 at age 74 following a brief illness.