Gary Burghoff: From Radar on MAS*H to Dedicated Dad – Why Family Comes First

Gary Burghoff, famous for his role as Radar on the TV series MAS*H, made a life-changing decision to retire from his acting career and prioritize his family. He left behind the military-medical comedy show to focus on his family, which was slowly falling apart. The 79-year-old Emmy-winning actor recently became a grandfather, which brought great joy to him and his family. His son, Miles Burghoff, a professional angler, welcomed a baby girl, Rylee Elisabeth Burghoff, in late March 2023.

Miles, who inherited his father’s love for fishing, credited his father for introducing him to the sport. At a fishing tournament, Miles shared that his father was there to offer moral support and that this was a testament to parents doing what they love with their kids. Although Miles did not follow in his father’s footsteps to become an actor, he was given the nickname “Sonar,” a nod to his father’s iconic role as Radar.

Gary Burghoff has been married twice and is a father to three children. His second wife, Elizabeth Bostrom, whom he married in 1985 and divorced in 2005, gave birth to his sons, Miles and Jordan Burghoff. Sadly, Bolstrom passed away in November 2019. Burghoff also has a daughter named Gena Gayle Burghoff, who was born in 1985, with his first wife, Janet Gayle, from whom he got divorced in 1979.

For Gary Burghoff, being a dad is more important than money or fame, and he decided to retire from his acting career to prioritize his family. He may have left the showbiz industry, but his legacy and impact as Radar will always be remembered by fans worldwide.

Gary Burghoff, who played Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly in the hit TV series MAS*H, decided to leave the show even though it meant not accumulating wealth. In a People interview, Burghoff revealed that he could have renegotiated his contract to earn more money, but family meant more to him. He emphasized that one can either choose to be rich and famous or be a devoted parent; it’s hard to have both.

Despite receiving numerous offers for roles in sitcoms in the 1980s, including a part in the popular show Newhart, Burghoff decided to focus on regional theater. He explained that he wanted to have more control over his schedule and spend time with his family. Unfortunately, the regional theater roles weren’t as successful as his character on MAS*H.

Burghoff’s role as Radar spanned seven seasons from 1972 to 1983. In the show, he played a company clerk and sometimes bugler in the U.S. Army’s Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. Notably, Burghoff played the same character in both the TV series and the 1970 film adaptation, making him the only actor to do so. The movie starred Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, and Sally Kellerman, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, a character played by Loretta Swit in the TV series.

However, Burghoff’s demanding schedule on MAS*H reportedly took a toll on his family life. As a result, he reduced his character’s appearances from 24 episodes to just 13 in the fourth season. In doing so, he prioritized his family’s needs over his work commitments.

Gary Burghoff’s departure from the hit TV series MASH marked the end of an era for fans who had grown to love his character, Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly. Season seven concluded with a two-part episode titled “Good-Bye Radar,” which explained the character’s discharge from the army. In an interview with The Television Academy Foundation, MASH director Charles S. Dubin revealed that Burghoff was going through personal struggles with his wife at the time. This made it difficult for him to film the episode as it touched on themes that related to his domestic issues. Dubin had to stop filming for 15 minutes and walk Burghoff around the backlot of Fox to comfort him.

After leaving MASH, the actor had many opportunities to take on roles in various sitcoms, but he turned them down. Burghoff instead opted for regional theater and wanted to pick the number of weeks he worked and spend the rest of the time with his family. However, these theater roles burned out eventually and couldn’t compare to his breakout role on MASH. Burghoff is the only actor to have played his character in both the TV series and the film, which also starred Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, and Sally Kellerman.

Gary Burghoff returned to play his beloved character Radar in two episodes of the MASH spinoff AfterMash, as well as in a third spinoff called WALTER, which was focused on Radar’s life after leaving the army hospital. However, WALTE*R didn’t get picked up for a full series. Despite being offered a generous contract worth $4 million to reprise his role, Burghoff declined. By 1991, he was close to bankruptcy, and in an interview with People, he revealed that he was left with only $500. It was at this point that Burghoff, who was known for his varied talents, decided to explore a new avenue and began painting.

Burghoff started painting North American wildlife and creating canvas oil paintings that were displayed in galleries and sold for $25,000 apiece. Today, his paintings can be found at auctions. Four years ago, Burghoff supported a GoFundMe campaign for people affected by the California fires. His son Jordan posted a video of him on social media, and fans praised his acting and efforts, showing how much he was appreciated. Burghoff’s passion for the arts and his commitment to his family have made him a beloved figure in the entertainment industry.

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