Sad news: Varsity Blues actor Ron Lester died in a Dallas hospital on Friday night. Lester, who was only 45, stole the show as football player Billy Bob, which wasn’t an easy feat considering both James Van Der Beek and Paul Walker had leading roles in the 1999 film. He then shocked us with his amazing weight loss success, shedding 348 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2001. But Lester’s obesity was one of several health problems he faced.
Lester’s backstory is filled with heartbreaking examples of how he tried, and mostly succeeded, to overcome serious depression brought on by losing his sister Linda when he was a child. He used food to give himself comfort and even spent time at an eating disorder clinic (at one point he weighed 508 pounds).
Before his gastric bypass surgery, Lester reportedly had two mild heart attacks and four arthroscopic knee surgeries. He revealed in January that he was suffering from heart problems, but TMZ reported that Lester made light of his health problems and didn’t seem in distress, choosing instead to focus on the new love in his life, fiancée Jennifer Worland. One year ago, he shared a photo of the couple on Twitter with the caption, “I’ve found happiness and love for the first time.”
Lester was hospitalized back in November for liver and kidney issues, and he also spent his last four months hospitalized. On the night of his death, Lester was said to be in critical condition before being taken off life support. He was surrounded by friends and family.
Lester was active in film and TV after Varsity Blues and went on to score roles in Freaks and Geeks, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Not Another Teen Movie. His extreme weight loss may have actually worked against him when it came to casting — though that didn’t keep him from dabbling in projects like CSI: NY and even writing, directing and producing.
It’s always tragic to lose someone, especially when he was still so young and, in his own words, had just found true happiness and love for the first time. May Lester rest in peace.