Norman Lear, the legendary television producer who created groundbreaking series such as “The Jeffersons” and “All in the Family,” was surrounded by his family before he died of natural causes Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles.
Dr. Jon LaPook, son-in-law of Lear and CBS News chief medical correspondent, said in Lear’s final moments, the family gathered around his bed and celebrated Lear’s life through music, singing songs from his favorite show, “Les Misérables,” and themes from his own TV shows.
It was during the rendition of “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song from “The Jeffersons,” that LaPook — who was also Lear’s doctor — felt the full weight of the moment.
“When we were singing ‘Well we’re movin’ on up to the east side’ And then when I heard myself say, ‘to a deluxe apartment in the sky’ and I just lost it because he’s going to some to a deluxe apartment in the sky,” said LaPook.
Despite battling illness, Lear’s last years were marked with “engaged curiosity,” a trait that defined the 101-year-old’s interactions with people from all walks of life, famous or not, LaPook said.
As Lear’s doctor and family member, LaPook said he focused on ensuring a peaceful end for Lear, aiming for a “gentle landing” free of pain and full of love.
“I mean if you were to say to somebody when they were 40, ‘How do you want to die?’ Like 101 surrounded by loved ones, with them singing to me and laughing and without any pain, and that’s exactly what happened. So I feel good about that,” said LaPook.
“He was one of my best friends,” Dr. LaPook said, reflecting on the over 40 years of friendship and learning he shared with Lear.
Lear’s philosophy of “over and next” has left a significant influence on LaPook.
“I can hear myself through him. When something’s over, it’s over and it’s on to next … it’s the best definition of living in the moment that he could think of,” said LaPook.” And that’s one of the big lessons that I got from him in my master class of him over all the years is just appreciating the moment.”
Lear, who got his start as a writer for radio and TV in the post-World War II years, was responsible for a string of hit series in the 1970s that helped define a generation, including “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “One Day at a Time.”
In recognition of Lear’s influence on the TV industry, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and The CW broadcast an in memoriam card in his honor Wednesday evening — a rare joint tribute across the major broadcast networks.
Hear Norman Lear’s conversation from 2019 with his daughter Kate Lear and Dr. LaPook as he reflected on his legacy