Leslie Nielson

Leslie Nielsen, popular comedic actor and longtime spokesman for the pool industry, passed away on November 28. He was 84.

Born in Canada in 1926, Nielsen appeared in more than 1,500 television programs and over 100 films.

An active advocate for safe swimming, Nielsen lent his image to local and national public service announcements that educated consumers about drowning prevention.

“He always had a soft spot for pool safety,” said Tom Bohner, president of Sun Systems in Phoenix. “He worked on quite a few videos with us, and he was always so patient, so generous with his time.”

Nielsen’s passion for swimming safety led to close friendships with the staffs of companies such as Sun Systems and Coast Spas.

“He was a family friend first and a spokesman second,” said Mike Murphy, marketing and communications manager at Coast Spas in Langley, British Columbia.

Since childhood, Nielsen found himself drawn to the entertainment industry. After a brief stint as a disc jockey at a local radio station, he discovered he had a talent for acting, and enrolled at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto.

While studying there, Nielsen received a scholarship to Neighborhood Playhouse, a theater in New York that trained professional actors. He made his first TV appearance in 1948, and before long began seeking roles in feature films.

In 1956, Nielsen got the leading male role in the successful sci-fi movie “Forbidden Planet.” It led to him being signed to a long-term contract by MGM.

But it was his deadpan portrayal of a doctor in “Airplane!” in 1980 that cemented him in the public mind as a world-class parody actor.

He went on to play similar roles in the “Naked Gun” series, as well as a wide variety of other satirical films.

Nielsen is survived by his wife, Barbaree, and his daughters, Maura and Thea.