James Arness, best known for his role as a towering Dodge City lawman in Gunsmoke, died at home in his sleep Friday. He was 88 years old.
Arness left behind a touching letter to his fans with the intention it be posted to his website after his death.
"I had a wonderful life and was blessed with... (so) many loving people and great friends," he wrote.
"I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years."
Arness played the iconic role of US Marshal Matt Dillon on the CBS Western series Gunsmoke for an unbelievable 20 years, from 1955 to 1975. His portrayal of a humble, quiet man with an unwavering sense of justice was beloved by millions of fans.
Intensely private, Arness refused most interviews and never discussed his life's biggest tragedies: The deaths of his daughter and ex-wife of drug overdoses two years apart.
In addition to Gunsmoke, Arness appeared in 34 films, 12 television shows and five Gunsmoke made-for-TV movies. He leaves behind his wife of 33 years, Janet Surtees, and a son, surf champion Rolf Arness. Son Craig and daughter Jenny predeceased him, as did his first wife Virginia Chapman.
Image courtesy WENN
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