Born Marty Ingerman in 1936, Ingels lived in Brooklyn during his early years, before moving to Princeton Gardens at 88-04 63rd Drive in Rego Park with his family. He was a Class of 1954 Forest Hills High School graduate.
In an April 2014 phone interview, which led to his inclusion in the recently published book “Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park,” he was asked about his proudest accomplishments.
“My 38-year relationship with my wife [actress and singer] Shirley Jones,” he said. “My ABC TV series, ‘I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster’ in 1963, my unwavering bank of integrity, honor, truth, and justice for all, and my abstinence from Raisinettes.”
He also mentioned the establishment of Fawn Park.
“My wife and I are the administrators of California’s only 9/11 memorial park that stays open only through donations from friends and patriots, who realize that America has not forgotten 9/11,” he said.
Some highlights of Ingels’ career are his roles in the 1969 films, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” and “The Picasso Summer,” as well as guest-starring on “The Love Boat” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His voice-over roles were featured in “Motormouse and Autocat” in 1969 and “Pac-Man” in 1982. As a theatrical agent, he helped the careers of John Wayne and Marlon Brando, among many others.
Around 1980, he decided to visit his hometown and alma mater Forest Hills High School, and shared his experiences with the Los Angeles Times, referring to it as “fulfilling my Forest Hills fantasy.” After he “grazed the grounds like a homesick puppy,” he remembered “the Forest Hills High flagpole.”
“There was something unfinished that I had to do before leaving my little red schoolhouse forever,” he said. “I wanted to swing from the flagpole on that rope. Back and forth, wider and wider I swung, passing swiftly over grass and gate and even nearby cars, barely missing the solid wood of the pole again and again. If only the guys could see me now.”
After Ingels’ passing, an influx of memories surfaced from old classmates and friends.
“We were a group of 12 classmates who used to hang out in a luncheonette west of Rego Park Jewish Center,” said Texas resident Louis Akop, who was also a member of the Class of 1954. “He was a man who was never serious. He always gave you a laugh.”
Notable actor Richard Balin, brother of award-winning actress Ina Balin, described Ingels as bright, funny, and sincere, with a quick and sarcastic wit. Ingels’ wife Shirley Jones starred in the film “The Children of An Lac” with Ina and they kept in touch.
“At Ina’s memorial service, Marty made an emotional speech and spoke of how he had a crush on her in high school, but she was always rushing somewhere,” Balin said. “In the depth of our sorrow, he made everyone laugh in a good way.”
Richard Spivak of Miami first met Ingels in Play Production at FHHS.
“Ingels was a stand-out as the first guy to wear a motorcycle jacket to school and he thrived on the PlayPro scene,” he said. “He tried to romance the female staff of every casting firm in New York.”
Boca Raton, Florida, resident Michael Aingel, who referred to Ingels as “Muff,” was a FHHS sophomore when he was a senior. Ingels had classes with his sister Lucy.
“She was one of the queens of FHHS and Muff would try anything to date her,” he said. “One day we bumped into each other walking on 63rd Road, and he offered to pay me money if I would give my sister an envelope he filled with a self-addressed stamped envelope and pre-printed postcards asking for a date.”
When Ingels was about to perform his first stand-up act at the popular Boulevard night club at 94-05 Queens Boulevard, he asked Aingel to critique his routine.
“I knew him better than most,” he said. “He was one of a kind.”
Houston resident Karen Fleischhaker Wixon recalled acting wasn't the path his parents wanted for Ingels.
“Marty got his first break in a Brooklyn studio with 'The Steve Allen Show,' but his parents never supported his show business endeavor,” she said. “They wanted him to become a doctor like his brother.”
Queens resident Sheri Tsanos Pinkerton’s father Gus owned the first Jahn’s ice cream parlor on Queens Boulevard and 64th Road. She called Ingels as a “mensch” and referred to his sharp memory.
“My father gave him free meals way back when Marty was a starving actor,” she said. “When he made it, he sent my father an autographed picture, acknowledging the meals he received.”
Classmate Audrey Ramsay Chard of Arizona recalled the signed photo of Ingels at the Forest Hills restaurant Mama Sorrento before he ever achieved fame.
“What struck me most is that he did not doubt that he would be famous,” she said.