Is Craig Aurness Still Alive? His Cause of Death

By Kritika Udas | Published on: March 4, 2024 | Updated on: March 4, 2024
Facts checked by editors at A-List Arena
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Craig Aurness, renowned as a photographer, gained recognition not only for his artistic talent but also for his association with Hollywood stardom. He was widely acknowledged as a star kid due to his adoption by the renowned actor James Arness. But, Craig’s disappearance from the media made many wonder to know if the star kid is still alive or dead. 

Keep reading to find out more about him.

Key Takeaways:

  • Craig was a professional photographer.
  • He was the adopted son of the popular actor, James Arness.
  • His mother and half-sister died due to an overdose of drugs.
  • Craig’s wife was Daphne Bowen and together, they had two children.
  • Aurness is no more alive in this world, who died at the age of 58 from lung complications and anemia.

Died At The Age Of 58; His Cause of Death

Craig passed away on December 14, 2004, from lung complications and anemia. His death occurred in Panorama City, located in Los Angeles County, California, USA. Matter of fact, Aurness passed away at 58.

Prior to his passing, Craig was undergoing therapy at Kaiser Hospital to address lung issues and anemia, highlighting the health challenges the celebrity child faced in his final days.

Moreover, following his passing, his family cremated him and then scattered his ashes. He was survived by his beloved wife Daphne, their two children, and his biological sister Holli Morton.

Was An Elite Photographer By Profession

James Arness’ late son Aurness established himself as a highly accomplished professional photographer throughout his career. He had the opportunity to work for prestigious institutions such as National Geographic.

While in Geographic, Aurness also embarked on his first assignment which was published in 1978. Over the course of the next decade, he dedicated himself to traveling the world, capturing captivating images through his lens.

Notably, the National Press Photographers Association recognized and honored Craig for his exceptional talent and dedication to his craft. He received awards for Best Photograph and Best Photo of the Year in the Magazine Pictorial Division.

Craig was a photographer
Craig’s photography in Iowa, USA.

In addition to his work for National Geographic, Aurness played a significant role in the world of stock photography. Alongside photographer Charles O’Rear, he co-founded his own stock photography agency called Westlight.

However, in 1998, Craig and Charles made the decision to sell Westlight to Corbis, a renowned company in the field of digital media licensing.

Numerous Books Featured His Photos

Aurness’s remarkable talent for capturing the beauty of his homeland, America, left a lasting impact on the world of photography. Furthermore, several notable books have featured his photographs, celebrating various regions and aspects of the United States.

Some of such publications include “Los Angeles”, “Iowa, The American Heartland”, “The West”, “Colorado”, and more.

Who Were ‘ Biological Parents?

Born on November 20, 1946, in Santa Monica, located in Los Angeles County, California, USA, Craig entered the world as the son of Virginia Chapman and Leo Morton.

Moreover, while his biological parents provided his genetic heritage, it was his adoption into the Arness family that shaped his identity and bestowed him with a connection to fame.

In fact, Aurness also has a biological sister named Holli Morton.

Craig Was Adopted By His Step-Dad James Arness

Following the separation of his mother, Virginia from her ex-husband Leo Morton, Craig found a loving and supportive figure in his stepfather, James Arness.

James and Virginia tied the knot in 1948 and their union marked the beginning of a new chapter in Craig’s life. Despite not being his biological father, James wholeheartedly embraced his role as a parent to Craig and his half-siblings.

Craig and his stepdad
Craig was adopted by his stepfather.

Further, for 15 years, James and Virginia shared their lives, providing a stable and nurturing environment for their children. However, as time passed, the couple decided to part ways, and in 1963, they officially divorced.

Moreover, despite the dissolution of their marriage, James remained committed to his responsibilities as a father and took on the challenge of raising Craig and his half-siblings as a single dad.

His Adoptive Father James Was A Famous Actor

James Arness, Craig’s adoptive father, gained immense fame and recognition as an actor, particularly for his role in the iconic television series “Gunsmoke.” However, his journey in the entertainment industry began in a different domain altogether, as he initially embarked on a career as a radio announcer.

James who is in a coat-paint took care of his children
James was a popular actor at his time.

While Arness is most famously associated with his portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke,” his acting credits extend beyond the small screen. He has appeared in notable movies such as “The Thing from Another World,” “Them!,” and “Gun the Man Down,” among others.

Furthermore, before his foray into acting, James served his country during World War II. In March 1943, he was drafted into the United States military and was assigned to Fort Snelling.

Craig Had Two Half Siblings Growing Up

Growing up, Aurness shared his childhood with his two half-siblings, Rolf Aurness, born in 1952, and Jenny Lee Arness, born in 1950. Unfortunately, Jenny tragically passed away at the young age of 24.

Aurness and his family
The Arness Family.

Rolf, driven by a passion for surfing, dedicated himself to the sport and achieved remarkable success in the surfing community. His skills and determination led him to become the World Surfing Champion in 1970.

On the other hand, Jenny Lee pursued a career in acting, following in the footsteps of her famous father, James.

His Mom And Sister Died From A Drug Overdose

Craig’s mother, Virginia experienced a devastating accident on July 29, 1977, when she unintentionally overdosed on sleeping pills. This unfortunate event marked a heartbreaking end to her life, leaving Craig and his family to grapple with the pain and grief of her untimely passing.

Craig's sister Jenny's young photo
Craig’s sister, Jenny, took her own life.

Furthermore, Craig’s half-sister, Jenny had also endured her struggles. Two years before Virginia’s accidental overdose, Jenny faced a deeply distressing situation when she overdosed on drugs in an apparent attempt to take her own life.

Reports suggest that Jenny battled with depression and chronic stress, and some sources indicate she may have also suffered from schizophrenia, a mental health condition characterized by a disconnection from reality.

Who Was ‘ Wife?

In 1974, Aurness tied the knot with his wife, Daphne Bowen and together they embarked on a new adventure.

Additionally, after his successful career as a photographer, Craig decided to step away from the world of photography and along with Daphne, they chose a quieter, more serene lifestyle in the countryside.

The couple established “Aurness Alpacas,” a venture focused on the purchase and sale of Suri alpacas.

Furthermore, during their journey together, Craig and Daphne welcomed the joy of parenthood. They had two children, Holly Aurness and Brian Aurness.