David Smyrl, an actor best known for his role as Mr. Handford, the retired firefighter who ran Hooper’s Store, on the long-running PBS children’s show “Sesame Street,” died on Tuesday in Wynnewood, Pa., outside Philadelphia. He was 80.
His wife, Cheryl, said the cause was lung cancer.
Mr. Smyrl played the smiling, singing store owner on “Sesame Street” from 1990 to 1998. He succeeded Leonard Jackson, who had played a grumpier version of the same character. Will Lee, who played Harold Hooper, the original owner of the store, died in 1982, and his character’s death was written into the show.
Mr. Smyrl — who was often billed as David Langston Smyrl, his full name — started his television career in New York in the 1970s and appeared on Broadway in the musical “Working” in 1978. He was employed as a writer on the sitcom “Benson” and as both a writer and an actor on “The Cosby Show,” in which he played Sam Lucas, a contractor.
Mr. Smyrl was born in North Philadelphia on Sept. 13, 1935. Besides his wife, he is survived by a stepson, Pancho Scott.