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Robert F. Chew, who played Proposition Joe on 'The Wire,' dead at 52

An 'exceptional actor' and 'essential part of community,' David Simon says

January 18, 2013|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Chew graduated from Patterson High School and attended Morgan State University where he sang in the school’s world-renown choir.  He was working full time in Baltimore area theater  since the early 1980s. He continued to teach in the Arena Players Youth Theatre after “The Wire” ended production here in 2007.

“He was a triple threat,” said Catherine Orange, director of Baltimore's Arena Players youth theater.  “He could act, he could dance and he could sing. He was an extraordinary teacher and director for us. He believed in our kids and was a task master.”

In 2006, Mr. Chew helped 22 of his students land parts in Simon's landmark series.

“Whenever I had to dig deep and find kids who not only had the talent but the reality and the belief, kids who didn’t look like the ones in a Jell-O commercial, I called Robert,” Moran said Friday.

“I’ve had calls today from students of his who he continued to mentor and teach into adulthood. He impacted people, lots and lots of people. And I don’t think he knew that," Moran added.

"He was a quiet, shy guy. Prop Joe’s character was the exact  opposite of what Robert Chew’s real character was. With a look or a gesture, Prop Joe could be terrifying. But that was just acting. Robert Chew didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Calvin B. Scruggs Funeral Home, 1412 East Preston Street.

In addition to his sister, Clarice, Mr. Chew is survived by his mother, Henrietta; and two sisters, Tonya Chew and Maureen Little. All live in Baltimore.

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