Monty Python star Terry Jones dies age 77 of rare form of dementia

British comedy star Terry Jones pictured in 2015, a year before he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Source: Getty

Tributes from fellow Monty Python stars have poured in for Terry Jones, who died on Tuesday at the age of 77 of a rare form of dementia.

Jones had been diagnosed in 2016 with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which impacts the front and sides of the brain, manifests itself at a younger age than more common types of dementia and gradually removes the ability to speak.

The actor and director’s family released a statement saying that he passed away at home in London after a “long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle” with FTD.

“We have lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades,” the statement said.

Welshman Jones was integral to the success of Monty Python, having met fellow comedy team member Michael Palin while studying at Oxford University. They joined John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam to form Monty Python in 1969 and went on to become internationally famous for their sketches, catchphrases and films. Jones directed three of the best-known Python films – Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life – and later went on to direct non-Python films including Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows.

Jones also wrote numerous historical books and TV documentary series, as well as children’s books and many newspaper articles. He worked with some of the other big names of British comedy, including Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie of The Goodies fame and David Jason of Open All Hours and Only Fools and Horses.

Some of those stars mourned Jones’ passing overnight. Cleese counted down the members of Monty Python left (Chapman died of cancer in 1989), saying “two down, four to go”. “It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away …” Cleese wrote in a tweet.

Palin spoke on BBC Radio shortly after learning of Jones’ death, and said that it had been difficult to watch his clever, witty friend gradually lose the ability to communicate.

“I lived fairly nearby and I used to go see him quite a lot, and though his dementia was shutting him down there were little moments you absolutely treasured – maybe just a glance or a touch on the hand or something like that,” Palin said, recalling that he and Jones had just “enjoyed life together.

“He was a terrific person to enjoy things with,” Palin said. “He really did increase the value of almost everything you did.”

Gilliam tweeted how much he would miss his old co-star.

A host of other British comedy greats also paid tribute to Jones.

Jones is survived by his wife Anna Soderstrom, with whom he had a daughter, and the two children of his first marriage to Alison Telfer.

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He was the brains behind so many Monty Python jokes and a prolific author but in his final years lost the ability to communicate.

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