Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Dad

My dad, Karl Hardman Schon, a.k.a. Night of the Living Dead's Harry Cooper, succumbed to pancreatic cancer just after midnight on September 22. He was exactly 80-1/2 years old.

He spent most of his last summer undergoing tests to determine why he was losing weight, but the cancer wasn't discovered until the end of August. At that point the cancer had advanced beyond surgery or treatment. The prognosis for pancreatic cancer isn't good under the best of circumstances, but I'm sad and angry that he had to spend his last precious days and energy being constantly poked, prodded and misdiagnosed. He deserved better.

My dad was a great guy -- always the life of the party -- and it's the good times that I will ultimately remember. He was smart, funny, talented and a lot of fun to be around. I loved spending time with him and I will miss him more than I can say. He enjoyed attending conventions and mingling with fans. It really tickled him that Night of the Living Dead was still so popular and he really loved it when fans would tell him how much they hated Harry Cooper. (He was nothing like old Harry in real life, thank God, yet he agreed that the cellar was the safest place.)

Oddly, the IMDB had, for years, erroneously listed my dad's birthday as September 22, 1922. I tried several times to correct it, to no avail. His actual birthday was March 22, 1927. I discovered last week that they finally corrected the date. It seems eerie now that his date of death would turn out to be September 22. My dad would appreciate the "coincidence" -- if, indeed, there is such a thing.

There will be no public memorial service, but anyone wishing to do so may send donations to The Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, an organization that was near and dear to my dad's heart.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also has a Guest Book where comments may be left.


Judith O'Dea said...

Without your dad's belief and trust in whatever I was or had way back then in the 60s, I never would have been part of NOLD. My gratitude and thanks will be with him forever!

You sure had a wonderfully talented, intelligent, and funny dad!

I send you my deepest sympathy and thoughts of healing white light and love.


1:48 PM  
Anna Liza said...

Miss Kyra,

I'm just one of many fans that will give you sincere condolences, but I know that nothing I can say will make things better. My grandfather also succumbed to the same thing's hard. Do know that you & yours will be in my prayers.

The memories of Mr. Hardman will always be Harry to us fans, and to you it'll always be Dad. I'm sure we're both glad and will put smiles on our faces just to have those memories.

We'll miss him.

Anna Liza

4:53 PM  
ARBOGAST said...

At the risk of sounding trite at this sad time, I've always felt that your father's character in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was misunderstood and too easily branded a coward and a racist for cracking (though he never crumbled!) during extraordinary circumstances. Even as a kid, I felt there was more to the tale of "Harry Cooper" than the film could tell and that's a credit to your father's intelligence and humanity. And of course, NOTLD fans worldwide bear the testimony that "Harry was right!"

2:02 AM  
Brian said...

Kyra, I am truly saddened to hear of your Father's passing. I know it sounds corny but to us fans those characters will live on forever. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a convention in 1998 and he was incredibly friendly. I mentioned to him how much he looked like my own Dad and he got a kick out of it. When he autographed my "Night..." photo he signed it "To Brian ~Karl Hardman (your Dad's look-alike)"! Not too many well known actors I've met over the years at conventions were as down-to-earth as he was. He'll be missed!

~Brian Horrorwitz

12:13 AM  
Sir Jack Torrance said...

Kyra,i´m a NOTLD big big fan from sincere condolences to you and the rest of your family.Harry cooper it´s a great character and a great performance but your dad also made invaluable merits to create a modern clasic horror film like music,make up.. etc... goodbye Karl! with all our love from a bunch of spanish fans

3:28 PM  
Dave Swiech said...

Kyra, I am sending my deepest sympathy for the loss of your dad. I had met him many times over the years at the conventions here in Pittsburgh and he was great to speak with. My father knew your dad since 1969 as he was a member of the Pittsburgh Press Club where my dad worked. He always said your dad was talented and fun. He will be missed. Dave

7:21 PM  
CampBlood said...


I've been a fan of NOTLD since I was a child. Your father was a great & talented man. We fans have come to know the characters in the film so well that they are an ingrained part of us. Karl will live on in all of our hearts & minds as our Harry Cooper. My most heartfelt sympathies go out to you & Marilyn.

He will be truly missed.

Mikey Tilton

3:34 PM  
Freedonian said...

First, I'm terribly sorry about the loss of your father. Setting aside his having been in the film, I feel for you as his daughter. I lost my own a couple of years ago, so I can relate to your pain, your loss.

I also mourn him as one of the stars of one of my favorite films of all time. This weekend, I shall watch "Night of the Living Dead" for what must be the 500th time with friends, and we'll raise a glass to your Dad.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

3:40 PM  
john dickenson said...

altho i didn't realize it @ the time, Karl inspired my sense of freedom, creativity and daring after seeing NOLD on the big screen in 1970. i was fortunate to get to know Karl & Marilyn after attending the 25th. Anniversary of NOLD in Pittsburgh @ the Zombie Jamboree. in fact, Karl & Marilyn were my guests in Freedonia n.y. for a monster bash 10-25-07, and you would be challenged to find kinder, more fun-loving people than them. to Marilyn & will be in my constant thoughts & Karl, i'll always remember you

10:06 AM  
William said...

It's always interesting to discover an actor so drastically different in real life as they are in the roles we know.

He was such a complete bastard in NOTLD yet in real life he was evidently a gem of a human being. Quite a testament to his ability as an actor, and considering the little experience he had as an actor, his talent is all the more impressive.

NOTLD is part of my life. I grew up with it, first seeing a midnight show when I was 16 back in 1981. To this day the film remains among my all time favorites, and is in part responsible for my career as a sculptor of comic and horror figurines.

R.I.P. Mr. Hardman. My sincere sympathies to you, Kyra.

9:37 PM  
Twalls said...

Hi Kyra,

I'm very sorry for your loss. He was surely a great man.

This touches me very personally as I lost my own mother four years ago to pancreatic cancer in the last week of September. I have more to say but for now let me say she was a great woman who passed on a spirit of independence and courage in the face of adversity.

She also took me to see NOTLD at the drive-in in St. Augustine, Fla. when I was five (this was about '73)! I thought it was very cool.

2:25 PM  
Kathy said...

Dear Kyra,
My deepest sympathy for the loss of your father. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I have received over the years watching Night of the Living Dead . Your father was tremendously talented and a bright light in the world and I am sorry he is gone. He will live on in our hearts and in you. In his memory, I am going to donate to the animal society mentioned. I am an animal lover, too, and knowing that he was kind to animals shows me what a truly nice man he was. I will watch NOTLD this week in his memory. Take care and blessings to you and yours.

Kathy Bennett

10:11 AM  
Chris said...


So sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my father a few years ago at 20, and I know it's a hard, hard time for you right now. He will always be remembered for NOLD. I wish you the best, and take care.

11:46 AM  
wesley said...

Kyra: Let me extend my sympathy for the loss of your father, Karl. Back in '93 I flew from San Jose, California to Pittsburgh for the first time in my life. Your father, you, and everyone involved with NOLD were my driving reason to visit Pittsburgh sometime in my life. Your dad was a very delightful character to meet. When I first met him, he had a fake bruise painted on his forehead. He went the extra mile for the fans. I also remember having my picture taken with cast and crew of the film. I had waited in line about 10-15 minutes. When I got in the group for the picture to be taken, I noticed that your dad and Keith Wayne were not there; then, just as the picture was about to be snapped I heard your dad's voice in the distance telling the photographer to wait. He and Keith showed up just in time. I'll never forget that. You, your father, and everyone else involved were so gracious to me that I'll never forget that weekend. I came to the convention alone, felt a little lonely after I got there, but you guys made me feel like family. I will watch the film again and raise a glass to your dad. He was one of a kind. Wes.

1:12 PM  
Bex said...

Hi Kyra,
I'm quite a horror movie fan and for the first time, I was introduced to "night of the living dead" this year on my birthday (3 November).

My first reaction was a bit of a chuckle due to thinking it would probably be dated and at first I laughed a little, particularly at the first zombie in the graveyard, until the movie continued and I found myself strangely drawn in. I have now watched it quite a few times and consider it a classic and am so glad to have added it to my growing collection.

For some reason, the character that most caught my attention was Harry Cooper and I was quite captivated by the way he played the role. He seemed to capture the intensity of the situation and lend the entire atmosphere even more tension by his intensity. THe interactions of the characters kept me rivited to the movie, and he was a big part of that...something about him. I have never seen him before, so looked him up on here out of curiosity and was sad to discover that he had died the same year that I had just watched this film -only just over a month or so.

So just to pass on my sympathies to you! For me he was a standout. I had no idea the daughter in the movie was his actual daughter in real life (you). As well as marilyn his partner! Very cool.

PS. I think the cellar was the safest place too! I sat through that movie and actually agreed with most of his points! lol and he was supposed to be the bad guy ;-)

7:20 PM  

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