Late actor Jack Klugman's annual Christmas party on Saturday (29Dec12) was turned into an informal memorial as friends and family gathered to celebrate his life.

The former The Odd Couple star passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Eve (24Dec12) at his home in California, but his wife Peggy decided not to cancel plans for their Mingle and Jingle bash, which they hold every year.

Entertainment journalist Jeanne Wolf, Klugman's longtime friend, has written a column detailing the touching event, where his loved ones shared their memories of the actor and snacked on his favourite foods.

In a blog for The Hollywood Reporter, Wolf writes, "When Jack unexpectedly died a few days before the event, his wife Peggy made the right decision, 'We're going to celebrate Jack! So the party is still on.'

"In a room full of large posters of Klugman's films and some amusing mementos, Peggy showed friends that an urn with Jack's ashes had arrived in the middle of the day. 'He decided to show up after all. He came early.' Loved ones were gathered and there were tears, of course, but even more stories and laughter as tapes of Klugman's Tv shows played around the house. Guests enjoyed Jack's favorite chili and favorite candies. There were many toasts and memories.

"Broadway dimmed its lights in a tribute to Klugman. I'm sad he's gone but seeing just a few minutes of him on screen and I was laughing out loud again. And his memory lingers in his house blazing with holiday lights which weren't dimmed but maybe burned a little brighter this weekend."

Klugman was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974 and battled the disease for more than a decade, but he is believed to have died of natural causes, aged 90.