Maltese actor, writer and comedian Joseph Debono has passed away after a battle with degenerative motor neurone disease ALS. He was 63. His brother, Louis, announced the sad news on social media and wrote, "He leaves behind a lot of love, kindness and smiles. But today is not an easy day." Debono’s demise comes days after he was named as one among the four recipients of the Nazzareno Vassallo award by CareMalta as a tribute after his efforts to raise the standards of the lives of the elderly. He was diagnosed with ALS in early 2020, a short time after the pandemic hit Malta, but managed to complete work on his novel, Iz-Ziju Manwel and then spent time reading to senior citizens, who were put up in residential homes due to COVID-19.
Growing up in Valletta, Debono attended the Ħamrun Lyceum and frequently made appearances in local theatres and television shows during the 1980s and 90s, including featuring on Aħn'aħna jew maħniex. He garnered popularity in the 90s after he played the comedic role of ‘James Bondin’ on Friday night TV on the show Xarabank. Times of Malta published an interview with Debono last week in which he stated that he had a tough time in tackling his worsening health condition. In an email exchange using Eye Gaze technology, he said, "I have my difficult moments and losing my ability to speak has been hard-hitting. The feeling of helplessness is very heavy. What comforts me is the fact that I enjoyed life while I could, which I would recommend to everybody."
Condolences have been pouring in on social media from Joseph Debono's friends and peers, including his former classmate, academic and illustrator Ġorġ Mallia who wrote about their meeting at a class reunion. He said, "It was just like old times. Only it wasn't." He added, "The emotions were running high, and when I read out a note Joe had prepared on his eye-activated computer, we realised that our old friend was still the same man we loved ... the witty man with the charming smile and sharp mind."
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