HGTV Stars You May Not Know Have Passed Away

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For all the years that it has been around and the many shows it has platformed, HGTV has turned many an inspired individual into a star. Before their appearance on the home improvement channel, many of these personalities were relative unknowns or just people doing what they did best. That is, until their HGTV association pushed them toward the brink of fame and turned them into household names among television-watching masses. Such an outcome was only expected, given HGTV's longstanding popularity — evident most visibly in industry statistics that placed the channel's viewership at over a million in 2018, behind only Fox News, ESPN, and MSNBC (per Architectural Digest). 

In fact, HGTV's role in offering emotional comfort has also been acknowledged. "A lot of my anxious patients like HGTV. The shows soothe and hit the need for curiosity," mental health expert Dr. Ken Yeager told Self. It wouldn't be a reach to give credit to HGTV's cast, crew, and guests for giving the channel this reputation it enjoys.

Sadly, many HGTV personalities working both on-screen and behind it have died, but not without leaving an impact on the channel. Here are some HGTV stars you may not know have passed away. 

Carol Duvall

To say that Carol Duvall was an HGTV legend would be an understatement. One of the first original stars of the home improvement channel, her decade-long run on "The Carol Duvall Show" turned her into a creative phenomenon known popularly as the "Queen of Crafts."  She more than justified that moniker, keeping television audiences enraptured with her innovative yet accessible approach to DIY home crafts practically all her life. She kickstarted her television career back in the 1950s when, by her own acknowledgment, the technology was a rarity. "When I started in television, there was no television basically," she said on "When Creativity Knocks." 

"The one thing that was unique about what I did, besides the fact that I was a woman, was that I had never done radio or anything," she said. The early phase of her on-screen career in Michigan comprised hosting stints — including on a children's show — before it gradually took shape into crafting expertise over a decade. As The New York Times quoted her saying in an interview: "I'm not a crafter who got on television. I'm a television person who got into crafting." Her association with ABC's "Home Show" in the 1980s and eventually with HGTV was her crowning glory. Duvall died in 2023 at the age of 97, survived by a son and legions of fans who commemorated her trailblazing television presence. She spent the final years of her life at a senior living facility in Traverse City. 

Byron and Catherine Cocke

Byron and Catherine Cocke attained one-time HGTV fame in 2011 with an appearance on the remodeling show "My Big Amazing Renovation," which featured a project on their historic family home. Tragedy struck the Georgia couple just six years later when they died in a fatal plane crash near Savannah. As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the couple — both notable business names in the Savannah community — was on their way to Cobb County when their charter flight began experiencing technical issues. The trouble was later revealed to have been caused by faulty installations that triggered "a total loss of engine power," as stated by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The pilot, Randy Hunter, communicated the challenges he was facing to air traffic controllers and was directed to land. The outlet reported that before the crash that killed all three onboard, Hunter told the personnel: "I'll probably make it." The Cockes are survived by five children, who were transferred into their family's care after the death of their parents. The pair were both in the housing business, with Byron leading CF Real Estate Services as the co-CEO and Catherine working as an interior designer. "They were philanthropic, creative, intelligent, caring, and entrepreneurial," Byron's business partner Brett Finkelstein said in a statement, per Multifamily Executive magazine. 

Suzanne Whang

Suzanne Whang's life story extended far beyond the scope of HGTV, but the television star was best known and most beloved as the voice of the reality production "House Hunters." Her death in 2019 followed a prolonged battle with breast cancer, with which she was first diagnosed in 2006. Though the malevolent disease sporadically affected her for over a decade, its strength was no match for hers. A comedian and actor as well, Whang pushed through with good humor commensurate with her initial reaction to the diagnosis: "This will be great material for my act" (via The New York Times). She was candid about her cancer journey, documenting it on social media and raising funds for treatment. She died at 56. 

"Her audacious sense of humor blessed many, shocked a few, but allowed us to laugh in the face of adversity," Whang's partner Jeff Vezain wrote in an emotional tribute on Facebook, sharing that he was by the television star during the final moments of her life. Whang boasted a wide and varied filmography, appearing in shows like "Las Vegas" and "Arrested Development," as well as star-studded films like "Constantine." Her longest association, however, was with HGTV, beginning in 1999 and spanning nearly a decade. The network commemorated her "distinctive voice that made everyone feel at home" in a statement issued after her death (via People). 

Chris Madden

Chris Madden was a pure creative through and through. The aesthetic whiz — whose client roster included a host of A-list notables, all the way from Toni Morrison to Oprah Winfrey, per The Wall Street Journal — emerged as a prominent face among home designers in the 90s. Though her early beginnings were in fashion, Madden found her calling in the world of publishing and she began churning out books that put her on the path of becoming an industry authority. As noted by The New York Times, the 1988 photobook "Interior Visions: Great American Designers and the Showcase House" was the inaugural project, followed by other popular titles like "A Room of Her Own: Women's Personal Space" and "The Soul of a House: Decorating with Warmth, Style, and Comfort." 

Her command over the subject of design established her as a pioneering face on HGTV with one of the channel's earliest shows, "Interiors by Design." Her understanding of residential beauty was evident not just in her words, but tangibly, too. She once owned a majestic carriage house worth $2 million — complete with cozy interiors and stonework architecture – in Purchase, New York with her husband Kevin Madden. The couple later seemingly moved to Florida, where Madden tragically died after she took a fall at home. NYT reported that Madden had been living with a blood vessel disorder called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia and had undergone multiple brain surgeries over the years.

Bill Beckwith

Bill Beckwith was a bona fide HGTV star, having built a wide fan base during his short stint as the beloved host of "Curb Appeal." His fame on the home improvement show was a culmination of his lifelong expertise as a builder. Beckwith got an early start in construction, working around his family's farm in Maine and further honing his skills during his years in college (per CNN). By 1995, he had turned his strengths into a business with BB Design Build, a construction company he founded. But Beckwith's glowing career came to an abrupt end when he died in a road accident. 

Beckwith was on a motorbike in San Francisco when a car collided with his vehicle late one evening in December 2013. The television star was rushed to the hospital, but died of his injuries soon after the accident. He was 38 at the time of his death. "The driver of the vehicle remained on scene and is cooperative with police investigators," an official statement from the police said, per Today. Given Beckwith's popularity with television-watching masses, his death prompted an outpouring of grief. HGTV commemorated their late star's "creativity, adventurous spirit and general love of life," while his friends, family, and girlfriend left heartfelt messages on social media. 

Frank Miller

Frank Miller was a core member of HGTV's "Flip or Flop." He was close pals with the show's celebrity hosts and was gifted with just the coolest nickname ever: The Tank. A contractor with an extended association with the show, Miller was a known name among longstanding fans. So when news of his deteriorating health came to light, it was emotional. During his time on "Flip or Flop," Miller began experiencing discomfort in his throat, prompting host Tarek El Moussa — a cancer survivor himself — to urge his friend to seek medical attention, as the duo shared on "The Doctors." The diagnosis pointed to laryngeal cancer. 

The disease seemingly affected Miller severely, evident most markedly in his changed appearance and through El Moussa's social media updates about his health. "He's been through so many radiation treatments, chemo treatments, he's lost so much weight. But I can say he's a fighter, absolutely," El Moussa said. Support poured in for the beloved HGTV contractor, with monetary contributions coming in for his treatment as well. In July 2017, El Moussa informed audiences that Miller was rushed to the hospital, writing: "His body is shutting down" (via Instagram). Miller passed away later that same year. 

Chris Hyndman

Few daytime show enthusiasts wouldn't be familiar with the phenomenon that was Chris Hyndman. The famous designer and media personality was nothing short of a television brand, paired regularly with his husband and collaborator Steven Sabados. His death in August 2015 thus came as a shocking event; more so, since it was shrouded in mystery. Hyndman's body was found on a street near his home in Toronto, lacking any vital signs. According to People, police authorities did not suspect foul play in the matter, with popular consensus pointing to a possible accident. 

Hyndman's friends and family confirmed that the television star was prone to sleepwalking. His grandfather said, "His mother knew that he was a chronic sleepwalker and that was her first thought. No drugs or no alcohol were involved." A cause of death was not formally released, though Sabados rejected the sleepwalking theory. "I don't know what happened and I can't sort of pursue it," he told CBC, the home base of the couple's widely beloved show "Steven and Chris." Though the latter was definitive to their joint fame, Hyndman and Sabados' long-term HGTV association — with shows like "Designer Guys" and "Design Rivals" — was key in turning them into popular small screen stars. 

Brandon Davis

Brandon Davis' death was an emotional moment for HGTV's widely popular "Home Town." A crew member on the renovation show, Davis' contribution spanned all the way from videography to production, leaving show host Erin Napier gushing about how he "told all of our stories so beautifully, better than any of us ever could" (via Instagram). He died in 2018, survived by his widow Brooke Davis-Jefcoat and their son Kingston. Reasons for his death were not widely made clear, with an obituary by his family only stating that he died of natural causes at the age of 31. 

His death, however, did not sever his association with "Home Town." When his widow Davis-Jefcoat and her new husband Robbie Jefcoat began house-hunting in Mississippi, who should step in to help but Davis' ex-colleagues and friends, "Home Town" hosts Ben and Erin Napier. On a tearjerking episode of the show in 2021, Davis-Jefcoat revealed that the famous designer couple supported her son and her after Davis' death (via People). "It was a great time of healing for me and for Kingston," she said. Davis-Jefcoat often shares snippets from her past life with Davis on social media, writing in one post: "I'm so grateful for his life and how it continues to impact mine. I love you, B." 

Troy Shafer

Troy Shafer garnered great renown on "Nashville Flipped," a DIY Network show that shared a parent company with HGTV. A Pennsylvania native with youthful dreams of turning music into a career, Shafer diverged from his family business of home-building and made his way down south to Tennessee. However, his inheritance was destined to come full circle, and Shafer eventually found his calling as an expert renovator of historic homes. It was his own enterprise that grew into his namesake show, which made Shafer a household name among television audiences, according to The Tennessean. He wasn't supremely enthusiastic about being filmed at his site of work, stating at the end of the first season shoot: "The worst is behind me — the long hours and the cameras." "Nashville Flipped" went on to run for another season. 

His strategic approach to sensitively and economically flip 19th and 20th-century homes found many takers in Tennessee, until his tragic death in 2019. Shafer was 38 when he died in his sleep, his brother confirmed to TMZ. At the time, Shafer's family expressed unawareness about any medical conditions that may have caused his unforeseen death. A report from the coroner's office later disclosed that Shafer died of combined drug toxicity, terming his death accidental, according to WKRN-TV. DIY Network issued a statement for their late star, describing him as "a dedicated, driven entrepreneur and restoration expert who was admired by everyone who worked on the series." 

Jessica Waldron

With just a brief appearance on "Christina in the Country," Jessica Waldron made a memorable impression on HGTV audiences. Show host Christina Hall was sought out to make wheelchair-friendly upgrades to Waldron's home in Tennessee after her amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis left her increasingly immobile. "My word of the year is ease," she said in an episode, requesting Hall for a design with greater access (via HGTV UK). Unfortunately, Waldron could not live to see the renovations Hall made, passing away in November 2022 before the project was completed. She is survived by her husband and two children. 

A clinical psychologist from Stanford University, Waldron became acquainted with Hall through her sister-in-law Cassie Schienle, who is also a close friend of the HGTV host. Echoing the emotional value that the project held for her, especially in the light of Waldron's death, Hall recalled for People: "This project was extremely difficult for me as well as the whole crew. At each monthly check in, we saw Jessica's health continue to decline." The circumstances also induced a panic attack in Hall, who found it hard to cope with her client's deteriorating condition. "Although she never got to see her home remodel complete, it was her vision for her family and something I am proud to have done for them." 

John Combe

As far as money was concerned, the sky was the limit for John Combe. Or so he memorably stated in the fourth season of HGTV's "Home Town," lending the episode not just a limitless budget, but also a fitting title: "The Sky's the Limit." Described by host Ben Napier as a globetrotter, Combe left audiences fascinated by waiving an upper limit on his expenditures for a lavish home in Mississippi. "I'm tired of big, big cities and I fell in love with the town of Laurel. It's just a place where I can come and relax and just enjoy life," Combe said on the episode, declaring: "Money's not a problem for me" (via HGTV). 

Unfortunately, Combe couldn't enjoy his stylish new pad for too long. In an Instagram post shared just weeks after Combe's "Home Town" episode aired in 2020, host Erin Napier shared that Combe died in Laurel. "He squeezed every last drop out of life, and I'm honored we got to help make his last earthly home such a special one," she wrote, alongside glimpses of Combe's Spanish-inspired home that the Napiers had designed. The sprawling residence that Combe was so invested in was a historic structure dating back to the 1950s, procured by him to the tune of $200,000. 

Sean Dougherty

Sean Dougherty's appearance on HGTV's "Beachfront Bargain Hunt" may not have been extensive, but it sure was impactful. The reactions to his death made this clear, with fans of the reality show remembering the late BASE jumping enthusiast, who came on the show in search of a dream beachside home in Jersey Shore. "He freely worked with a broad smile on his face and gladly took second place to his expert contractor," one fan wrote under an obituary shared for Dougherty by O'Leary Funeral Home. The remembrance mentioned that he died in May 2022 at the age of 43. A cause of death was not mentioned, though, given Dougherty's sporting passions, certain media reports hinted at a BASE jumping accident. 

While Dougherty had a washing and painting business in Pennsylvania, it was his zest for the outdoors that took the fore on his social media. He regularly gave Instagram followers a glimpse into his adventurous outdoor activities that ranged from surfing to biking and, of course, BASE jumping. His final post showed him plunging out of a chopper alongside a caption that read: "Definitely one of the better Tuesdays I've had in a very long time." During a jumping stint in Fayetteville once, he told WVNS-TV: "Once I get on the platform I tend to kind of relax and I get a calm that comes over me ... almost like a peaceful feeling right before I jump."

Leslie Jordan

With a showbiz career spanning nearly four decades, Leslie Jordan was nothing short of a stage and screen icon. Though his work oscillated from Oscar-nominated films like "The Help" to off-Broadway productions like "Lucky Guy," his interminable television credits were what made him a distinct small-screen figure. In addition to his iconic roles in shows such as "Hearts Afire," "Will & Grace," and "American Horror Story," Jordan also made a memorable appearance on HGTV's star-studded renovation show "Celebrity IOU." The episode — which aired after Leslie Jordan's sudden death in 2022 and marked one of Jordan's final television gigs, per HGTV — saw brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott (of "Property Brothers" fame) join hands with the comedian to present a freshly furnished home to his friends. 

"I think he learned by people giving to him, and he's become that person to give to others," Drew Scott told ET Online, while his twin Jonathan shared that Jordan's tragic death even prompted the team to briefly shut down production. He added: "Leslie is just this force of good, and anybody who spent any amount of time with him knows he's just so genuine and so sweet." There was an outpouring of tributes from the industry after Leslie died following a car crash near Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. He was believed to have been facing some medical issues at the time, which the coroner's report later identified as cardiac dysfunction, according to TMZ

Gail O'Neill

Gail O'Neill's overarching claim to fame was as a pioneering 90s supermodel with a glittering resume boasting some of the biggest brand names in the world. Across covers of esteemed magazines like Sports Illustrated and Vogue to fashion houses the likes of Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, O'Neill had an ubiquitous presence that made it near-impossible to forget her face. HGTV fans will recognize her for different reasons though, since her fame transcended the scope of fashion. In her later life as a television presenter, O'Neill joined the network as a host on "Mission: Organization" and "Public Places, Private Spaces," emerging as one of the most notable HGTV faces in the 2000s. 

In the words of a former modeling agent of the host: "Everybody wanted to work with Gail O'Neill" (via The Hollywood Reporter). Before her death in 2023, O'Neill had also forayed into journalism — a natural progression from her days as an outspoken Black model who was unafraid to dip her toes into advocacy for social causes. She worked with the Atlanta nonprofit ArtsATL, where colleagues reminisced their time with the late model fondly. "She had the ability to take a reader along for the ride on her journey of discovery," executive editor Scott Freeman said, per ArtsATL. Though a cause of O'Neill's death was not revealed, the organization mentioned that she had an illness during her final years.