Famous Veteran: Leonard Nimoy
"Live long and prosper": that was the catchphrase for Mr. Spock from the classic sci-fi show Star Trek, and the legendary actor who played him, Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy certainly lived long and prospered before passing away on the morning of February 27, 2015 at the age of 83.
He was born in Boston, Massachusetts to two Jewish immigrants from Soviet-era Ukraine. His father Max Nimoy was a very popular neighborhood barber. His two sons were fairly precocious, and became a common sight around the neighborhood. Nimoy took the stage at eight years old by performing in neighborhood plays. His parents encouraged his artistic endeavors, but asked him to pursue a college degree in order to provide himself with stability. He took classes in drama at Boston College, but didn't complete his studies and left in 1953.
Despite Nimoy's craving to be on stage and in the spotlight, he enlisted in the United States Army Reserves in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, his personal records were destroyed in a fire in 1973, but a few things are still known about his activities during his service. He spent a total of 18 months in the Reserves, and his service number was ER 11 229 770. He spent most of his time at Ft. McPherson in Georgia, and was discharged in 1955 having earned the rank of sergeant. Nimoy was in charge of a platoon that happened to include actor Ken Berry. Berry confided in Nimoy his ambitions to dance and perform, and Nimoy encouraged him to pursue his goals once he left the military.
Part of Nimoy's time in the military was spent putting on shows for the Army Special Services branch which he wrote, narrated, and emceed. He even found time to direct and play Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild's production A Streetcar Named Desire. Nimoy's time in the military must have helped inform some of his roles, including an unaccredited role as an Army telex operator in Them! He also played a soldier with PTSD in a film produced by the United States Marine Corps.
After leaving the military, Nimoy landed a large number of small parts in television. One of his early appearances was in a mid-60s TV show about the Marine Corps called The Lieutenant, produced by a young executive named Gene Roddenberry.
Their connection led to Roddenberry offering Nimoy the role of Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human science officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise on his new science fiction show Star Trek. Nimoy flourished in the role, and even helped create and establish Vulcan culture, such as the iconic Vulcan salute and Vulcan neck pinch. Nimoy said his inspiration for the Vulcan hand sign was his memory of Jewish priests and how they held their hands while delivering a blessing.
Success was bittersweet for Nimoy, as he found it difficult to escape typecasting once the Star Trek TV series ended, but he found further success in entertainment, and eventually came to terms with his relationship with his famous character in the book I Am Spock. He worked in series such as Mission: Impossible, Columbo, and A Woman Called Golda. He also took part in various stage plays and performed voice-over work for cartoons like Transformers and other various shows.
In April 2010, after a key role in the 2009 Star Trek film that rebooted the franchise, Nimoy announced his retirement from acting. He was also a respected photographer (his most well-known collection of photos is The Full Body Project) and was an active member in the Jewish community.