Richard John De Angelis, an actor who played police Col. Raymond Foerster in The Wire, HBO's gritty crime drama set in Baltimore, died Wednesday at his Silver Spring home of congestive heart failure and complications from prostate cancer. He was 73.
During a 35-year career begun at age 38 after working as an accountant for 14 years, Mr. De Angelis appeared in more than 55 plays, 200 TV and radio commercials and 19 television programs and movies. His appearances included roles in Homicide: The Movie and in the John Waters film A Dirty Shame. He also spent many years as a standup comic.
Delaney Williams, who plays Sgt. Jay Landsman on The Wire, said Mr. De Angelis was a fully committed and believable actor.
"We had been on the series since the beginning, but his character just became my boss this current season, and it was an opportunity to work with him in a way that I hadn't had previously," Mr. Williams said. "We had both liked and admired each other. He was a very nice man and a hell of a good actor."
Mr. De Angelis was born in Boston and grew up playing stickball and pingpong, eventually moving on to pool sharking in adolescence, according to his family. He worked as a stage hypnotist before serving in the Navy during the Korean War. He was stationed aboard the USS Oriskany in 1952 when it became the first aircraft carrier to round Cape Horn.
After leaving the service, Mr. De Angelis earned an associate's degree in accounting from Bentley College in Boston and worked as an accountant for 14 years.
"One day he just realized, sitting at his desk, waiting for the day to end, that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown," said his son, Richard Michael De Angelis of College Park. "So he reinvented himself at 38."
Mr. De Angelis quit smoking, went to acting school and became a vegetarian, eventually joining the University of Maryland's theater arts program, where he earned a master's degree in 1983.
In addition to beginning his acting career, he also became a committed advocate for animal rights, his son said.
"He was an extremely gentle man, but he would get really angry about things he considered to be injustices, and the humane treatment of animals was the cause closest to his heart," he said.
He often rescued and cared for stray animals, including his cocker spaniels Emma, Goldie and Buddy, as well as his cat, Kinski. He participated in national animal rights marches in 1990 and 1996 and supported several charities dedicated to the humane treatment of animals.
He was married twice, first to Barbara Porebski, with whom he had four children, and later to Karen Wells. Both marriages ended in divorce, although Mr. De Angelis remained friends with both women, his son said.
As long as he was physically able, he attended services at the Celebration Center of Religious Science in Falls Church, Va.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Borgwardt Funeral Home, 4400 Powder Mill Road in Beltsville.
In addition to his son, he is survived by two daughters, Annmarie De Angelis of Brentwood and Daren Dean of Ocean City; four sisters, Nikki Moccia of Wilmington, Mass., Ann Andleman of Burlington, Mass., Vicki Stone of Woburn, Mass., and Linda Buchanan of Prince Edward Island, Canada; and a brother, Rickie De Angelis of Winthrop, Mass. Another son, Stephen James De Angelis, died in 1993.