Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in "The Wizard of Oz" and proclaimed in the movie that the Wicked Witch of the East was "really most sincerely dead," has died. He was 94.
His caregiver, Cindy Bosnyak, said Raabe — pronounced RAH'-bee — died Friday morning at a hospital in Orange Park, Fla. He was one of the few surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.
Bosnyak said he complained of a sore throat at his retirement community before collapsing and going into cardiac arrest. He was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he later died, she said.
"He had a headful of hair at 94 and he ... remembered everything everyday," she said. "To me he was a walking history book, very alert."
Raabe was one of the 124 Munchkins in the film classic and one of only nine who had speaking parts. He was 22 years old and a show business veteran, earning money for college as a "midget" performer, as they were called then, when the movie was shot in 1938.
Raabe portrayed the diminutive Munchkin official who solemnly pronounces the witch dead after Dorothy's farmhouse lands on her: "As coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."
His costume included a huge hat with a rolled brim, and dyed yak hair was used for his handlebar mustache and long beard.
In a 1988 Associated Press interview, he 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."
Raabe was about 3 1/2 feet tall when the movie was made. He eventually grew to about 4 1/2 feet. He toured the country for 30 years in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, promoting hot dogs as "Little Oscar, the World's Smallest Chef."
He also enjoyed going to Oz nostalgia events and getting fan mail.
"It's an ego trip," he said. "This is our reward, the nostalgia."