Pat Morita is best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” movie franchise.
The classic 1980’s series starred Pat Morita as the mentor of Daniel LaRusso. He later reappeared in his iconic role in where he mentored the next generation of karate students, this time it was Julie Pierce.
Morita was referred to as Noriyuki “Pat” Morita on set due to the director wanting him to appear more authentic.
With the reprisal of the Karate Kid franchise in the form of the TV show, “Cobra Kai” it’s led many of fans to wonder what happened not only to the Mr. Miyagi character, but also to the man who played the lovable character for more than 10 years.
Pat Morita Died of Kidney Failure After a Struggle With Alcoholism
Morita died of kidney failure at the age of 73.
Unfortunately, Morita’s life was not pain-free. The actor was diagnosed at a young age with a rare disease of the spine and was told he might never learn to walk. The diagnosis, Pott Disease, is often described as tuberculosis of the spine. Morita was sent to a center for people suffering from tuberculosis from 1934-1943 but it was when he was transferred to San Francisco’s Shriners Hospital and given an experimental bone graft treatment that allowed his spine to fuse, that he was finally cured.
Morita credits this time as the time he developed his sense of humor and creativity, even citing the disease for the reason he became an actor.
“If it wasn’t for my disease, I wouldn’t be here today,” Morita said before his death.
This wasn’t the end of the painful road for Morita. When he was healed and released back to his family, the United States was at war with Japan and he and his family were sent to Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona and then to California’s Tule Lake War Relocation Center.
“Uncle Sam and we Americans like to use euphemistic words or invent words if we think certain other words are too harsh. So they called them ‘relocation centers,’ but they were America’s version of concentration camps,” he said in an interview with the Television Academy.
After suffering a lifetime of alcoholism, Morita died of kidney failure, following a urinary tract and gallbladder infection in 2005.
Ralph Macchio Gave the Eulogy at Mr. Miyagi’s Funeral
One could not think of Ralph Macchio and not think of his iconic character, Daniel LaRusso. And you cannot think of LaRusso and not remember Mr. Miyagi which is why it made perfect sense to learn that Macchio delivered the eulogy at Morita’s funeral.
“Pat Morita was a truly generous actor, a gifted comic, and an even greater friend. It was both my honor and privilege to have worked with him and create a bit of cinema magic together. My life is all the richer for having known him. I will miss his genuine friendship. Forever my Sensei,” stated Macchio.
As for the fictional character, Mr. Miyagi died on Nov. 15, 2011.