A few hours into the new year, and 2014 has already claimed it first celebrity, unfortunately.

Actor James Avery, who most will likely remember as the rotund, intimidating, stern, but good-humored Uncle Phil on hit 1990s NBC sitcom, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, a role he played for the entire 6-season run of the series, has died.

Avery reportedly passed this morning from complications following surgery for an illness that has yet to be revealed. He was being treated in a Los Angeles hospital.

TMZ, the site that originally broke the story, says that Avery’s wife, Barbara, had been at his bedside, but left for a short period of time, sadly to find that he’d died, upon her return.

Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks – Avery’s son on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air – confirmed the news with a message posted on his Facebook page, stating:

The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed.

An onscreen career that lasted more than 30 years, Avery, a classically trained actor, born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1948, where he was raised by a single mother, worked in both TV and film. But he will likely most be remembered, fondly as Phillip Banks, the tough but tender uncle to star Will Smith’s character on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

We will revisit some of Avery’s onscreen moments in upcoming posts.

He was 65 years old at the time of his death.

May his soul rest in peace.