Actor Gregory Sierra, best known for his roles in “Sanford and Son” and “Barney Miller,” died on January 4 from cancer, his widow Helene Tabor confirmed to CNN Friday. He was 83.
“He was quite wonderful, and my heart is broken into 400 million pieces,” Tabor said. The cancer persisted “for quite a while and he was doing the best he could and just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.
Originally from New York, Sierra relocated to California, pursuing a film and stage career that ultimately spanned five decades. His most prominent roles were in sitcoms from the 1970s.
In NBC’s “Sanford and Son,” he was a series regular as the Sanfords’ neighbor Julio Fuentes. Later, he portrayed Miguel “Chano” Amanguale, a detective on ABC’s “Barney Miller.”
Sierra also had supporting or guest roles in “All in the Family,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Miami Vice,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Film credits included “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” “Papillon,” and “The Towering Inferno.”
Tabor called Sierra “a brilliant actor” and said he was still receiving fan mail in the days since his death. His last credited acting role was in 2018. Tabor said he decided to retire because, while he still loved acting, he had difficulty remembering his lines.
Tabor said he was “the first person to help anybody that needed help and he cared about people very much.”
Sierra is also survived by two stepdaughters and a step-granddaughter, all of whom, Tabor said, “loved him and called him ‘Dad.’”