Meinhardt Raabe, the Munchkin coroner in "The Wizard of Oz" who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East "really most sincerely dead" after Dorothy’s house fell on her, has died. He was 94.
His caregiver, Cindy Bosnyak, told the Associated Press that Raabe died Friday morning at a hospital in Orange Park, Fla.
He was one of the few surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.
"He had a headful of hair at 94 and he … remembered everything everyday," Bosnyak said. "To me he was a walking history book, very alert."
Raabe was one of 124 actors who played Munchkins in "Oz," and one of only nine with speaking parts.
Just 22 years old at the time, Raabe was already a show business veteran, having earned money for college as a "midget" performer.
In a 1988 Associated Press interview, Raabe said he had no idea the movie would become a classic, because at the time of its release, it was overshadowed by "Gone With the Wind."
"It was only after CBS got the film in 1956 and used it for their promotions that it became as well known," he said.
Raabe was about 3 1/2 feet tall when he made "Oz," but grew to about 4 1/2 feet.
He toured the country for 30 years in the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, promoting hot dogs as "Little Oscar, the World’s Smallest Chef."
He also enjoyed going to Oz nostalgia events and getting fan mail, calling it "an ego trip."
With co-author Daniel Kinske, he published the book "Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road" in 2005. And in 2007, Raabe was one of seven surviving Munchkins on hand when the Munchkins were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born in Watertown, Wis., in 1915, Raabe joined the Midget City cast at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934. He performed at other fairs including 1935’s San Diego Exposition.
"By working at these world’s fairs as a midget, I was able to work my way through the university," Raabe said. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin and, years later, a master’s degree in business administration from Drexel University.
Raabe said some little people resented the word "midget," but that was the description widely used when he was in show business.
"My wife and I were both in show business, were both midgets. My wife [Marie Hartline] worked from 1929 to 1932 as a member of Rose’s Royal Midgets, the largest midget troupe in vaudeville," he said.
He married Hartline in 1946; she died in a car crash in 1997.