Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, died Saturday at age 56.
A statement from the sheriff’s department in Harrison County, Indiana, said the dispatcher “received a 911 call about an unresponsive female. Upon arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Moran Fleischmann was deceased. An autopsy is pending.”
The dispatcher confirmed to The Associated Press that the woman was the actress, who had been married to Steven Fleischmann.
A Burbank, California, native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 years old. She had nearly a decade’s worth of experience when she was cast in 1974 in Happy Days as Joanie Cunningham, the kid sister to high school student Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard.
Debuting at a time of nostalgia for the seemingly innocent 1950s, the sitcom was set in Milwaukee and soon became a hit. Howard and Henry Winkler, who played tough guy Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, were the show’s biggest stars, but Moran also became popular. In 1982, she was paired off with fellow Happy Days performer Scott Baio in the short-lived Joanie Loves Chachi.
Her more recent credits included The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote, but she never approached the success of Happy Days and was more often in the news for her numerous personal struggles.
“OH Erin … now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth,” Winkler tweeted. “Rest In It serenely now … too soon.”
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