The eldest son and namesake of Tony Award-winning actor Ben Vereen has died under unknown circumstances at age 55, two weeks after he went missing.
The 73-year-old Broadway veteran released a statement on Wednesday, announcing the tragic passing of Benjamin Vereen Jr.
‘I am sorry to announce my son Benjamin A Vereen Jr., affectionately known as Benji passed away,’ the elder Vereen stated, as first reported by Spectrum News.
‘Benji was a dancer and a choreographer with an extraordinary artistic talent and we will hold him in our hearts forever. Thank you to the public for loving my son.’
The younger Vereen had been missing since July 27. His father learned of his death on Saturday.
The stage and screen actor, best known for his Tony-winning turn as The Leading Player in the musical Pippin, concluded his announcement by asking the public to allow his family to ‘mourn this privately.’
No details have been released concerning the cause and manner of Vereen Jr’s death. He is survived by three sons and one daughter.
Vereen Sr’s life has been punctuated by tragic events, beginning with the death of his 16-year-old daughter, Naja, who was killed in December 1987 when a minivan driven by her mother was crushed by a tractor-trailer that toppled onto a New Jersey highway ramp.
Vereen’s then-wife, Nancy, escaped the deadly accident unscathed.
‘Basically, it was an act of God that she wasn’t injured,’ said a state police spokeswoman at the time.
In 1992, Vareen Sr was critically injured after he was struck by a station wagon driven by Grammy-winning composer and producer David Foster on a Malibu, California, freeway.
Six hours before the accident and a mile away, Vereen had crashed his Corvette into a tree after falling asleep at the wheel.
Vereen Sr’s career in entertainment spans over 50 years of theater, film and TV performances. He appeared on stage in the musicals Hair, Fosse, Chicago, and Wicked, and won a best actor in a musical Tony Award in 1973 for his role in Pippin.
On the small screen, Vereen starred as Chicken George in the landmark TV miniseries Roots, and played Will Smith’s largely absent dad in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
More recently, he had recurring roles on How I Met Your Mother and Amazon Prime’s Sneaky Pete.
Vereen Sr has three surviving daughters with his ex-wife, Nancy, whom he divorced in 2012 after 36 years of marriage.