Partner Thomas Coley, buried together
Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd, Clinton, NY 13323
145 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Lost Farm, Tyringham Valley, Tyringham, MA 01264
Tyringham Cemetery, Church Rd, Tyringham, MA 01264
William George Roerick (December 17, 1912 – November 30, 1995) was an American actor. He is particularly associated with the stage, but also played in many films and TV productions. He was also a stage manager and writer. His name is sometimes given as William Roehrick.
Roerick was born December 17, 1912 in Hoboken, New Jersey and was a classically trained actor. He was graduated from Hamilton College in 1934 and was a student at the Stockbridge Playhouse drama school in 1935. He made his Broadway debut that same year in Romeo and Juliet. He played on Broadway for 45 years, his last Broadway role being in Happy New Year in 1980.
Roerick played Henry Chamberlain in the television soap opera The Guiding Light for 15 years (1980–1995), only ending with his death. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for best supporting actor for his work in the show, in 1991. Among his many other television and movie roles, two favorites were in Roger Corman's sci-fi thrillers Not of This Earth and The Wasp Woman.
Roerick wrote the family comedy play The Happiest Years, with Thomas Coley. The play was produced on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in 1949, featuring Peggy Wood. The New York Daily News was enthusiastic, as was the Albany Times Union ("Leaves a taste in the mouth like mint leaves. A hit and you can quote us.") but it wasn't a hit: it ran for eight performances, opening on April 25 of 1949 and closing on April 30, but was popular for a while for summer stock and amateur productions.
Roerick summered for many years at his home called The Lost Farm in Tyringham, Massachusetts, an old farmhouse on a 90-acre plot that he restored from dilapidation, but which remained without electricity or plumbing. He played summer stock at the Stockbridge Playhouse, and was visited by theatre friends – Shirley Booth and Lynn Bari helped rehabilitate The Lost Farm; visitors included Peggy Wood, Mady Christians, Eleanor Steber, and Samuel Barber, and Roerick hosted parties for the Stockbridge Playhouse troupe.
In 1943, Roerick met author E. M. Forster while touring in Britain with This Is The Army, an Irving Berlin show raising money for emergency relief. The two became friends and Forster stayed with Roerick at The Lost Farm. Forster was quite happy there and dedicated his last book, Two Cheers for Democracy to "William Roerick and 'The Lost Farm' in Tyringham, Massachusetts". Roerick later wrote a memoir essay of this time, Forster in America, and (with Thomas Coley) the play Passage to E. M. Forster, which remains unpublished but has been occasionally presented.
Roerick, who was gay, lived both in New York City and at The Lost Farm with his lover and longtime collaborator, fellow actor and writer Thomas Coley. In addition to their two plays, they wrote television scripts together.
Roerick died on November 30, 1995 in an automobile accident, either in Tyringham or the adjacent town of Monterey, Massachusetts.