I’m stunned by the tragic death of Phil Hoffman. We went to high school together, but few of us had any idea he would become such a huge star.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman."  (Photo credit: New York Times)

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” (Photo credit: New York Times)

Lynn and I just heard the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, apparently of a heroin overdose. We feel so sick and so sad. Grieving for him. Grieving for his family. And his friends. We are praying for each of them to find Christ’s comfort at this hour. Praying they experience what the Apostle Paul calls “the peace that passes all comprehension” in Philippians chapter four. When we were growing up in the same town in Upstate New York (Fairport), we all knew him simply as “Phil.” We were in the same graduating class of about 575. I remember seeing him in the Fairport High School senior year drama in “Death of a Salesman.” He played the lead, Willy Loman, and he was phenomenal. It was stunning how good. Phil had always been a class clown. I had no idea until then he could act at all much less so well. We all knew at that point that he could be a breakout, but did any of us in the Class of ’85 really know how huge a star he’d become? Indeed, after graduating from New York University, he became one of the most impressive and celebrated actors of our generation. Oscar award winner. Tony award winner. You name it, he won it. A few years ago I took Lynn to see Phil play Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” — but this time on Broadway. He’d been amazing in high school, but he was, of course, even far more effective after years of training and experience — which made a sad and tragic play 1000 times sadder. I remember seeing him first in Scent of a Woman. Twister was fantastic. Hunger Games, too, and so many other of his films and TV shows. My favorite has to be Mission Impossible when Tom Cruise disguises himself as Phil Hoffman! I sat in the theater blown away. Suddenly, Cruise (the biggest box office star of our time) was gone. It was just Phil vs. Phil on the silver screen. Though we grew up in the same town and went to the same schools, I never knew him really. But I’ve prayed for him often, and for all the Raiders of ’85. I am heartbroken he struggled so much to find hope in this world and that he is gone so soon, and so tragically. Good bye, Phil. You will be deeply missed.
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