Will Smith James Avery Uncle PhilSunday night Will Smith paid tribute to actor James Avery, who passed away Wednesday following complications from open heart surgery. The 68-year-old Avery had played Uncle Phil to Smith’s onscreen alter ego through six seasons (and two Aunt Vivs) on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996 and made a star out of Smith. “Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace,” Smith wrote on Facebook, posting a photo of the two with Fresh Prince cast mates Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, and Alfonso Ribiero. Ribiero, who played Uncle Phil’s son Carlton on the show, Tweeted his condolences after Avery’s passing on New Year’s Day: “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.” Tweeted Ali: “James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be a part of me.”

Related: R.I.P. Actor James Avery

Here’s a highlight reel of great moments in Uncle Phil for the Fresh Prince nostalgists:

AWJ
9 months
That was a hoax. If you're truly upset about something, you can take days, weeks to respond...
terrence
9 months
actually, will had addressed avery's passing the day it was announced by suggesting a reunion tribute.
Eye on Zapruder
9 months
Damn!I can appreciate Will Smith weighing in with sympathy for Mr. Avery but I really have to...

And Avery’s story, in his own words: