Ernie Coombs was born in Lewiston, Maine on November 26, 1927. He studied commercial art but an interest in theatre led to painting scenary. In the earlier part of his career, he worked with Pittsburgh Miniature Theatre, a touring children's theatre, and at WQED-TV. In 1963, he met Fred Rogers and came with Fred to Canada to work as a puppeteer on Mr Rogers. When Rogers returned to the United States the following year, Coombs hosted Butternut Square where he played the popular Mr. Dressup. In 1967, the CBC decided to give Mr. Dressup his own show which was a hit with children, airing every weekday morning for the next 30 years. Coombs became a Canadian citizen in 1994. He received the Earle Grey Award for excellence in TV in 1994, a Gemini award for best performance in a children's program, and the Order of Canada in 1996. Coombs retired from Mr. Dressup in 1996 where afterwards he performed charity work, appeared in theatrical productions for children and made personal appearances around the country for all his fans, young and old.