2016 was a particularly rough year when it came to celebrities passing away. But just because we've entered a new year doesn't mean death has been put on hold. George Kosana, who made his feature film debut playing Sheriff McClelland in the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead, has died at the age of 81. While his untimely demise was reported by a number of outlets today, the actor's longtime friend John Russo, who co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with George A. Romero, broke the news in a Facebook post yesterday. Here's what the writer had to say in his statement.
"George Kosana, R.I.P. My close friend George Kosana, who played the sheriff in NOLD, has regrettably passed away after a long battle with various illnesses. He will be greatly missed by me, by his fellow NOLD cast and crew members and by his many fans. For the past few days, I have been constantly reliving my many good and often funny remembrances of him."
George Kosana was born in Clairton, Pennsylvania on December 22, 1935, and while little is known about his early life, he made his feature film debut in Night of the Living Dead as Sheriff McClelland. He also served as the production manager on the horror classic, and he also appeared in George A. Romero's 1971 film There's Always Vanilla and 1976's The Booby Hatch, which was co-written and co-directed by John Russo. He would return to acting in 2009's Incest Death Squad after a long hiatus, and he also reprised his Sheriff McClelland role in 2012's Living Dead and the upcoming My Uncle John Is a Zombie!, which John Russo wrote and is co-directing.
Unfortunately, just months before the late actor passed, George Kosana was in dire financial trouble, with John Russo setting up a You Caring fundraising campaign on his old friend's behalf. According to John Russo's You Caring campaign intro, his old friend of over 50 years was in financial trouble thanks to "an unscrupulous relative who cleaned him out of his life savings by taking advantage of him while he was in the hospital having a series of life-threatening operations". The You Caring campaign also revealed he was suffering from emphysema, COPD, macular degeneration, while he was recovering from four bypasses and two valve replacements.
John Russo also stated in the You Caring campaign intro that he befriended the Night of the Living Dead star while they were both in their 20s, because he liked his, "gruff, off-beat, adventurous personality." They both served in the military, although in different branches, with George in the Marines and John Russo in the Army. George Kosana is survived by his older brother Stephen, three nieces, Lise (Prestine), Deborah (Kosana), and Kimberly (Bednarek), two great-nieces, Katherine (Prestine) and Anna (Bednarek), and one great-nephew, Robert (Bednarek).