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Death of Louis Gossett Jr was not expected at all, says ex-personal assistant

The death of Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr at the age of 87 was “not expected at all”, according to his former personal assistant.

On Friday, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce placed a wreath of flowers on the Walk of Fame star of Gossett Jr, after he was awarded the honour in 1992, nine years after becoming the first black man to take home a best supporting actor Oscar.

Film producer Miriam Holder Jacobs, sister of British-Guyanese actor Ram John Holder, appeared at the flower-laying event to pay her respects, holding two pictures of her with the late actor.

Obit Louis Gossett Jr
Flowers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star for Louis Gossett Jr (Richard Vogel/AP/PA)

She told the PA news agency that she last spoke to Gossett Jr two weeks before his death, and it was veteran US actress Marla Gibbs who told her he was in hospital.

“This was not expected at all, we’re all very, very sad,” she told PA.

“I met Lou through my brother who is an English actor, Ram John Holder, he was in the Desmond’s TV show.

“I went to London to visit my brother and my brother took me to the A Warm December set in London and that’s where I met Lou.

“Sidney Poitier was the director, he picked me up as a young 21-year-old and swung me around the air, I had a big afro and he said ‘If I knew you were coming, I’d put you in the movie’.”

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A memorial wreath is placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star (Richard Vogel/AP)

Holder Jacobs said that after her first encounter with Gossett Jr, he went to the set of Death Wish, where she was working with its star, Charles Bronson, and British director Michael Winner, where he asked her to become his “personal assistant”.

Speaking to a crowd of people, she said “my boss Lou Gossett brought me out to California when I was 25 years old to work with him and his production company and we’ve been in touch ever since – it was an honour to have known him and have worked with him”.

“I’ve worked with him off and on for over 20-something years, back and forth,” she told PA.

“I’m like a little sister to Lou, he can call me for anything that he wants and I make sure that it gets done.”

She said a stand-out memory was when he “ate fried chicken before he went to the Oscars – he loved to eat chicken”.

Speaking about Gossett Jr becoming the first black man to win a best supporting actor Oscar, for his role in An Officer And A Gentleman, she said: “He was excited about it.”

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A tourist looks at a memorial wreath that was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star for Louis Gossett Jr (Richard Vogel/AP/PA)

Holder Jacobs added: “I know his final words would be to the young students, especially black students – read the history books regardless if it is in the schools or not, go to the library, find them and read about your history.

“Follow your dreams, treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s what Lou is all about.”

A wreath of white flowers with a green banner and glittering gold letters spelling out the actor’s name was placed on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which already had a small bunch of white flowers on it.

Walk of Fame producer Ana Martinez said: “The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce proudly inducted Mr Gossett with his star on May 20 1992, and his ceremony was featured along with many other events around America on that day in the beautiful photo book A Day In The Life Of America.

“I remember how honoured he felt to receive his star and to be honoured in this amazing and popular book.”