Emmy Award-winning actor and Wilton resident David Hoyt Canary died of natural causes at the age of 77 on Nov. 16 at The Greens at Cannondale.
He was as well known here for his generosity to the community as for his acting career.
Canary and his wife, Maureen, raised two children, Christopher and Kathryn, in Wilton and became very involved in the community after realizing “how much local organizations could benefit from their talents,” and participated in many fund-raisers involving music and acting, according to a March 2005 Wilton Bulletin article. That year, the couple were named Distinguished Citizens of the Year by the Wilton YMCA.
His volunteer efforts included performing in a production of Love Letters to benefit A Better Chance (ABC) of Wilton and emceeing and singing in the Wilton Kiwanis Club’s annual holiday concert. He was also an active volunteer with the Friends of Wilton Library.
Canary participated in Middlebrook School’s first-ever Career Day in 1997, when he told students his work was “wonderful but tough.”
The couple opened the Wilton Education Foundation’s 1997 spelling bee, served as celebrity hosts of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center’s annual Safe & Sound Race/Walk in 2000 and 2001, and narrated Wilton’s Bicentennial in 2002.
Canary regularly participated in Wilton’s annual CROP walks and was also a spokesperson for NRFTD, formerly the Wilton Task Force on Lyme Disease. He was the NRFTD’s guest of honor in 2002.
He also sang with the Wilton Singers and was a fan of the Wilton Children’s Theater, crediting the theater and its alumni during a 2001 speech for “accolades bestowed upon the high school’s drama department” the previous year, when the department was recognized as having one of the top acting programs in the country.
Canary performed Clarence Darrow: A One-Man Show at the Wilton High School Little Theater in 2001 to raise money for Wilton Library and served as master of ceremonies of ABC of Wilton’s 2006 Food for the Soul benefit concert.
Canary starred in soap operas like All My Children and One Life to Live, and was well known for his role as the ranch foreman Candy Canaday on Bonanza, which he played from 1967 to 1970 and 1972 to 1973.
He also made guest appearances on two of the longest running prime time dramas in U.S. television history, Gunsmoke and Law & Order.
Canary was born in Elwood, Ind., on Aug. 25, 1938, and grew up in Massillon, Ohio, where he attended Washington High School.
He earned a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, which is where he developed a passion for the performing arts. According to IMDB.com, Canary trained as a singer at the school and graduated with a degree in music.
Canary turned down an offer to play professional football for the Denver Broncos and instead decided to head to New York City to become an actor.
There he performed in summer stock, regional theater, and in on- and off-Broadway productions before being drafted into the U.S. Army. During his two years of service, Canary entered and won the All-Army Entertainment Contest in 1963.
After being honorably discharged, Canary moved to Los Angeles to continue his acting career. He landed a role in the musical The Fantasticks in San Francisco. According to Jean M. Peck’s “Interview with an ‘All My Children’ star” article in the University of Cincinnati’s UC Magazine, Canary’s experience in The Fantasticks “led to his first break in television” — playing Russ Gehring on Peyton Place in 1965 and 1966.
During that time, Canary’s film roles included Lamar Dean in Hombre (1967) and Frank Gusenberg in The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). In addition to his roles on Bonanza and Peyton Place, some of Canary’s television roles included George McClaney in Gunsmoke (1967) and Charlie Montana on Dundee and the Culhane (1967).
Canary returned to New York City in 1975 and met his second wife, Maureen, with whom he moved to Wilton in 1983. That same year, Canary started his 27-year run on All My Children as Stuart and Adam Chandler — roles that would earn him 16 daytime Emmy nominations and five wins.
Canary is survived by his wife; his son Christopher and his wife, Amy, of Philadelphia; his daughter Kathryn and her fiancé, John Rotheimer, of New York City; his grandson, Donovan Canary, of Philadelphia; and his brother John and wife Paula of New York City.
Funeral services will be privately held for immediate family at Bouton Funeral Home in Georgetown, and a memorial tribute is being planned, with a date to be determined.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, ALZ.org.