Certain episodes of “The Waltons” stand out as memorable for a number of different reasons. One of those happens to be “The Gift.”
Why was this one unique? Judy Norton, who plays Mary Ellen on the CBS family drama, talks about it in another show of “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Waltons’.”
“A couple of times in the episode, I was moved by the fact that John-Boy [Richard Thomas] and John [Ralph Waite] have a conversation about dying,” Norton says. “And the fact, you know, Seth is dying and John talks about how he feels about dying. Later in the episode, Grandpa, Will Geer, has also a conversation about dying.”
‘The Waltons’ Star Says it Was ‘Emotional for Me’ to Watch Co-Stars Talk About Death
“The Gift” aired during the second season of “The Waltons.” The storyline has to do with a friend of John-Boy and Jason [Jon Walmsley] named Seth Turner [Ron Howard], who is diagnosed with leukemia. One thing Seth wants to do before dying is to teach Jason how to play a recorder he made for him…as a gift.
“And it was very emotional for me to watch both Ralph and Will talking about dying,” she says. “And from a standpoint of neither one of them are with us anymore.” Waite died on Feb. 13, 2014, at 85 years old. Geer died on April 22, 1978, at 76 years old.
During its run on CBS, “The Waltons” took on a number of different subjects, including death. It wasn’t always sweet and cuddly up on Walton’s Mountain, for sure. Show creator Earl Hamner Jr. used his memories of growing up in Virginia during the Great Depression as a backdrop for this show.
Norton, Thomas Have Gone On to Have Careers in Theater World
Thomas and Norton have something in common beyond the TV show. Both actors have embraced roles in the world of the stage. Thomas has been nominated for a Tony Award in 2017 for his role in “The Little Foxes.” Norton has been out performing in musicals and other serious roles.
Still, their connection with “The Waltons” is something people remember to this day. Norton obviously doesn’t mind sharing with fans through her YouTube series about her memories of the show. She also provides some insight into how specific shows and scenes were done.
Thomas appears in 124 episodes of the iconic TV series. He left in 1977. Norton, though, stayed through all nine seasons of “The Waltons” run. Both initially appear in their TV roles in the pilot for the show, “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.”
In that movie, star actress Patricia Neal plays matriarch Olivia Walton. Actor Andrew Duggan plays patriarch John Walton. But they didn’t continue in those roles for the TV series. Michael Learned took over the Olivia role and, obviously, Waite played John.