The actor and longtime Aquinnah seasonal resident Paul Benedict was found dead Monday in the Vineyard Haven apartment where he had planned to spend the winter. He was 70 years old.

Known best for television roles ranging from the mad painter of numbers on Sesame Street, to Harry Bentley on The Jeffersons, Mr. Benedict was on stage at the Vineyard Playhouse in August performing in Rubles Two, short plays inspired by Chekhov.

The long-jawed character actor was a devoted supporter of the Vineyard Playhouse, where he was on the honorary board. The playhouse is holding an event called Tea and Spirits on Sunday from 4:30 to 6 p.m., where board president Dr. Gerry Yukevich promised to “raise a cup in Paul’s honor.”

Dr. Yukevich said the well-known raconteur and raccoon-feeder Mr. Benedict himself had planned to come, “so I’m sure he’ll be with us in spirit.”

Mr. Benedict’s death was sudden and appeared to be from natural causes. An autopsy was to be performed yesterday in Boston to determine more details, Dr. Yukevich said.

Theatre veteran Robert Brustein, founder of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge and honorary board member of the Vineyard Playhouse, said yesterday he knew Mr. Benedict through both.

“He was just a lovely man and a lovely actor, and he was very devoted to the Vineyard,” Mr. Brustein said. Mr. Benedict did a lot of staged readings and plays on the Church street stage, Mr. Brustein said, including a reading of his collection of short works, Seven Elevens, with Tony Shaloub and Brooke Adams this past summer.

“He was totally modest and very unassuming,” Mr. Brustein said. “Paul loved to be on the stage and would choose the stage over anything,” he added, though Mr. Benedict also appeared in film and television.

“Paul did not demand anything in the way of billing or other ego things, he just loved to be on stage,” Mr. Brustein said.

“He would have his family up [to Aquinnah] every year for two weeks, and that was when he would not act, because he would focus entirely on squiring his family around the Vineyard,” Mr. Brustein said.

Mr. Benedict had an extraordinary face, with an elongated jaw and what Mr. Brustein called a Habsburg chin. The unusually long face was, Mr. Brustein said, “due to the fact that he suffered from pituitary disease which actually was identified by a doctor in the audience watching him” in Boston.

Mr. Benedict used his face to great effect as the eccentric who painted numbers between 2 and 11 — on streets, Stockard Channing’s umbrellas, bald heads — in the PBS series Sesame Street.

Aquinnah resident June Manning recalled the gentle Mr. Benedict coming to do his number-painting act for children at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and its day care center years ago. She said Mr. Benedict “took his citizenship on the Vineyard very seriously,” contributing whenever he was asked.

The actor had a passion for raccoons, and would let them eat out of his hands, Mr. Brustein said. In his note to playhouse board members about Mr. Benedict’s death, Dr. Yukevich wrote: “He touched absolutely everybody he knew on the Island, even casually, including a number of way up-Island raccoons and deer who were fattened up summer after summer by Paul’s own generous hand. (Fig Newmans, anyone?)”

Born in New Mexico, raised in Massachusetts and educated at Suffolk University, Mr. Benedict had a theatre career which began at the ART and spanned stages from New York to Los Angeles; he also directed regularly off-Broadway. His film roles included the director of the gay Richard III play in The Goodbye Girl, Smitty Brown in This is Spinal Tap and Not Guffman in Waiting for Guffman.

His appearances on television ranged from episodes of Kojak in the 1970s to Seinfeld in more recent years, with his longest running role being Harry Bentley on The Jeffersons, through the mid-1980s.

The Web site remembered Mr. Benedict’s character this way: “Before Seinfeld had Kramer, George Jefferson had Harry Bentley; the affable Englishman lives next-door to the Jeffersons. A friendly chap with a bad back, he is fond of George and often turns to ‘Mr. J’ to walk on his spine, though he is frequently confused by George’s verbal put-downs. A translator for the U.N. . . . He comes from a colorful family, including an ancestor who was a bishop who was de-frocked . . . for wearing one.”

Plans for an Island memorial service in mid-January are still being formulated.