News broke on Wednesday (April 14) that Lee Aaker, a former child star best-known for his run as Rusty of "B-Company" on 1950s TV series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, had passed away on April 1. He was 77.
Paul Petersen, a former child actor known for his role on The Donna Reed Show, announced Aaker's passing on social media.
"Saying Goodbye to Lee Aaker," Petersen wrote on Facebook. "You have to be a certain age to remember Rin Tin Tin. Lee Aaker passed away in Arizona on April 1st, alone and unclaimed...listed as an 'indigent decedent.' As an Air Force veteran Lee is entitled to burial benefits. I am working on that. God knows when a sparrow falls."
Petersen told The Hollywood Reporter that Aaker "had battled drug and alcohol abuse during this life and was alone with one 'surviving relative that could not help him'."
Lee William Aaker, born on Sept. 25, 1943 in Inglewood, California, started appearing in films by age 8, including The Greatest Show on Earth and Gary Cooper Western High Noon. Other pre-Rin Tin Tin roles range from John Wayne and Geraldine Page's classic Hondo to noir film Jeopardy (starring Barbara Stanwyck), Tony Curtis' No Room For the Groom, Danny Kaye's Hans Christian Andersen, short film Benjy, 3-D Western Arena, the drama Desperate Search, Gene Barry thriller The Atomic City, comedy Mister Scoutmaster and anthology film O. Henry's Full House.
Later films include Chill Wills comedy Ricochet Romance and the Audie Murphy Western Destry.
From 1954 to 1959, Aaker appeared in ABC's The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, which co-starred James Brown. It followed TV appearances on Fireside Theatre and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and preceded roles on The Lone Ranger and Route 66.