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The first celebrity death of the year has already begun to hit waves, as classically trained actor James Avery (most known as Uncle Phil) died on New Year’s Eve. He was 65-years-old.

News of the celebrated sitcom father’s passing came from his television son, Alfonso Ribeiro, whom tweeted his own condolences on the social network.

“I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” Ribeiro tweeted. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.” Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil character on the Will Smith-starring 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air got his start in an uncredited role in the 1980’s Jon Belushi and Dan Aykroyd film, The Blues Brothers.

A classically trained actor and poet, the 65-year-old actor reportedly recently underwent open heart surgery, which led to complications causing his demise on Dec. 31. Avery’s wife, Barbara, was by his side before leaving for a brief moment to get food. Upon her return, she discovered him lifeless in his bed.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Avery was an Atlantic City, New Jersey native, was raised by a single mother, and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

After his time spent in the military, Avery caught the thespian bug hard, moved to San Diego, California, and begun writing TV scripts and poetry for the Public Broadcasting Service.

This marks the second death of a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum in recent weeks. In late December, the show’s longtime producer Jeff Pollack was found dead in the jogging area of Hermosa Beach, California. The 54-year-old Hollywood veteran was discovered by a passerby who contacted police, and appeared to have been in mid-run when he collapsed.

Avery’s Sparks co-star recently expressed his condolences on Twitter, tweeting, “Rest in Peace James Avery. Love You. One of the best actors of our time.”

[Spotted at TMZ]

Photo: NBC