When Alan Hale Jr. passed away, the Coast Guard offered to hold a funeral at sea for the Skipper
Hale kept his illness a secret.
To his fans, Alan Hale Jr. was and always will be, The Skipper. It's a title that Hale wore with pride and a role that felt more true to his personality than fans might have known. While the Skipper was usually mostly bluster and gruff, he had a soft side that Hale shared, along with a love of the ocean. He brought his viewers and fellow actors great joy whether he was in a starring role, or whether he was just being himself.
This is why it's so heartbreaking to learn that when Hale became sick, he went to great lengths to keep it from friends and family. According to Russell Johnson, better known as The Professor, Skipper's fellow castaway on Gilligan's Island, Hale was able to keep his illness, cancer, a secret for roughly two years, even hiding it from his wife for a bit of time before she discovered it on her own.
In his book, Here on Gilligan's Isle, Johnson revealed that one of the last times he saw Hale was at a Gilligan's Island event, where he noticed that Hale had lost a significant amount of weight. While Johnson and his fellow castmates weren't aware of how serious the issue was, they certainly could tell that Hale was sick with something. Even Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, seemed to notice a change in Hale, but when Johnson pressed him, Denver responded, "I don't know. He won't discuss it."
After Hale had passed away, the anguish from the loss was felt throughout his circle of friends and family. Johnson discovered Hale's passing from another fellow Gilligan's Island star, Dawn Wells. Johnson wrote, "Dawn called me in the morning when she found out that Alan had died. Dawn was like another daughter to him, and I know it was crushing for her. She had been to the hospital to see him the day before, and she said she knew it wouldn't be long. All of us felt the loss of a dear friend."
Even after his death, many of those impacted by Hale were determined to honor and celebrate him as best they could. Johnson revealed that the Coast Guard had reached out to Hale's widow, Naomi Ingram, and offered "a full military service at sea," a beautiful service fit for such a man as Hale. While Ingram appreciated the effort, she declined and instead elected to follow through with one of Hale's final wishes. Johnson wrote, "He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea."