Will Smith on James Avery's Death: Every Young Man Needs an Uncle Phil

01/06/2014 at 02:30 PM EST

Will Smith on James Avery's Death: Every Young Man Needs an Uncle Phil
Will Smith (right) with James Avery and their costars
Courtesy Will Smith

Will Smith

Will Smith

The nephew has spoken.

Will Smith, who played James Avery's nephew on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, took to Facebook on Sunday to honor the late actor, who died Dec. 31. Smith, 45, posted an undated picture of the sitcom's cast, noting, "This photo was the last time we were together.”

The snapshot shows Smith and Avery standing next to each other and embracing.

Smith also paid tribute to his former costar's influence, writing, “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.”



Avery, 68, died at an L.A. hospital after undergoing open-heart surgery.

Raised in New Jersey, he spent decades working in Hollywood, first penning scripts and then turning to acting. Although best known for his role as Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince, Avery later appeared in That '70s Show and The Closer. He also voiced characters for animated shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Smith isn't the first celebrity to remember Avery on social media. Fresh Prince costars Alfonso Ribeiro and Tatiana Ali – Avery's children on the show – honored the TV patriarch on Twitter.

"He was a second father to me," Ribeiro Tweeted Jan. 1. "I will miss him greatly."



The same day, Ali called Avery her "teacher" and "protector."

She Tweeted: "We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be a part of me."

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