The Tragic 1998 Death Of Ray Combs

Ray Combs was a talented comedian, actor, and game-show host whose career in making people laugh was cut far too short. As per WVXU, he first got into comedy in 1978 after working as a furniture salesman in Indianapolis, and decided to move to Los Angeles to acquire the sage wisdom of David Letterman, who was also a native of Indianapolis. Combs eventually worked his way up to becoming a warm-up comedian for the filming of such shows as "The Golden Girls" and "Amen."

While being a warm up comedian for a TV sitcom may not be every stand-up comic's dream, Johnny Carson — whose production company owned "Amen" — happened to attend one of these taping sessions, and watched Combs making the studio audience howl with laughter. According to WVXU, Carson soon gave him a spot on his Tonight Show debut on Oct. 23, 1986, which turned out to be Combs' first big break. Within a year, Combs' reputation grew considerably, and he was offered hosting gigs on four different game shows, ultimately going with "Family Feud," which was being revived at the time.

Ray Combs' tragic death

According to People, Ray Combs' time on "Family Feud" came to an end in 1994 when he was replaced by Richard Dawson, the host of the show's original run. Despite making nearly $1 million a year, Combs' life was in a bad state. Being replaced on "Family Feud" was hard on him, he endured chronic pain from spinal injuries that resulted from a car accident, and his marriage to Debra Jo Loomis was on the rocks. She knew he was at a low point. While she was on a call with Combs, she said, "I could hear pills pouring out," and that he said "'tell the kids and my parents I love them.'" Debra immediately called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital. Combs, however, was let go that morning, and jumped out of the car when Debra was driving him home. Combs later arrived his family's home, ranting and raving; he had to be escorted by the police to the hospital again for closer observation of his behavior.

Unfortunately, the next morning Combs hung himself with a knotted sheet and died by suicide. His body was found in a closet of the Glendale Adventist Medical Center on June 2, 1996, thus cutting short the life and career of a man with so much comedy left to give to the world.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The hardships left in the wake of Ray Combs' death

The tragedy of Ray Combs' death didn't end with his death, either. He was in dire financial straits, and his family was left to pick up the pieces. According to People, after his passing, Combs' estranged wife Debra learned that he owed almost half a million dollars. The responsibility of sorting out his finances fell on her shoulders, which only compounded her grief over the loss of her husband and her duty to help their six children cope. "New bills and financial records pop up nearly every day," Debra said at the time. "I feel overwhelmed. But you can't just fall down and say, 'I can't go on.'"

As stated in People, Debra had to take a freelance job working for a transcription service in order to make ends meet during that difficult time. Luckily, she received some help from her local Mormon church, as well as some (meager) financial support from Social Security. Her biggest benefactor, though, was Johnny Carson, the man who gave her husband his first big break. Carson presented Debra with a check for $25,000 and a note that said, "I understand you are having some problems. I hope this will ease the burden."