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Merlin Olsen dies from Mesothelioma

March 11, 2010  California; Merlin Olsen dead at 69.

A very sad day indeed – we lost a true sports giant and a good man.

The former Pro Bowl player and TV actor lost his battle with mesothelioma cancer. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in July of 2009.

According to Examiner.com Merlin’s brother, Orrin announced his death Wednesday and stated that his brother had been undergoing chemotherapy. The Examiner.com article went on to say Orrin, a native of Utah, had been living in Park City until his hospital stay in Duarte, California.

Merlin Olsen; 1980

Merlin Olsen; 1980

Olsen, who began his NFL with the St. Louis Rams and was voted into the Pro Bowl as a rookie, alleges that a handful of companies, including 20th Century Fox Film Production and NBC Studios, as well as asbestos manufacturer Bondex International Inc. were responsible for his diagnosis. Olsen believes that his contact with asbestos materials dates back to his childhood years, when he would work with asbestos-containing products after school and during the summers. He also stated that he came into contact with workers who had been exposed to asbestos drywall patching compound, and that he may have been exposed secondhand.

Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer that has no cure and is generally unresponsive to palliative treatments like chemotherapy. A survival period of about nine months, like Olsen’s, is not rare, as the majority of patients do not survive beyond two years.

After an illustrious NFL career, Olsen began acting. One of his most well-known roles occurred on Little House on the Prairie, with teen star Melissa Gilbert and legend Michael Landon. He also had a role on the series Father Murphy. Melissa Gilbert shared her sadness following Olsen’s passing via Twitter, saying “My heart go out to his fear family…forever now, a guardian angel.”

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