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Richard Dawson, former 'Family Feud' host, dies at 79

11:53 AM, Jun 3, 2012   |    comments
Richard Dawson is in his familiar role as host of "Family Feud" in this May 8, 1978 Associated Press file photo.
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(CNN) -- Richard Dawson, the longtime host of "Family Feud," has died, his son said in a statement Sunday. He was 79.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer," Greg Dawson said in a post on his Facebook page early Sunday. "He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered."

Dawson was the show's host from its premier in 1976 until 1985. He also hosted the show's 1994-1995 season.

The host was known for kissing female contestants on "Family Feud."

Dawson told the Archive of American Television in a 2010 interview that his trademark move started early on in the show's run, when he saw a woman shaking as she struggled to come up with the name of a green vegetable.

"I said, 'I'm gonna do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind. ... And I kissed her on the cheek, and I said, 'That's for luck.' And she said, 'Asparagus.' ... They went on to win," he said.

From 1965 to 1971, the British-born actor's six-season stint as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on the World War II series "Hogan's Heroes" made him a familiar face for American audiences, according to a biography posted on IMDb.com.

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