Happy Days’ star Erin Moran, whose iconic turn as Ron Howard’s sister Joanie Cunningham on the beloved sitcom captured 1950s-era innocence, is dead at the age of 56, and authorities say she died of cancer.
She died in Indiana of complications of Stage 4 cancer, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release. An autopsy was completed by the Harrison County Coroner’s Office.
Moran’s husband, Steven Fleischmann, has released a moving statement on her death, in which he says Moran died of throat cancer peacefully while sleeping at his side and holding his hand.
Moran, who was living in a trailer park in New Salisbury, Indiana, struggled throughout the years with alcohol, a home foreclosure, and other issues that hit the news. But authorities do not believe that caused her death, despite a report by the Daily Mail that Moran died of a suspected heroin overdose. The Daily Mail is now reporting that no drug paraphernalia was found near her body and no drugs were found in Moran’s home.
Authorities confirmed that in a statement. They said that an autopsy revealed that Moran “likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer.” They said that standard toxicology tests were performed, and results are pending, but added, “no illegal narcotics were found at the residence.”
Results of toxicology tests are still pending.
Moran was trying to turn her life around, neighbors told the Daily Mail. David Holt said he she was “trying to sort out her problems,” including with alcohol, before her death.
“She had problems. Everybody’s got problems and she was working through the problems to try and better herself. You have to understand she was such a nice lady she’d walk up and down the street and she was always waving. She was a good lady,” Holt said.
Moran’s Happy Days co-stars and other friends have released a series of heartfelt statements about the death of the childhood actress whose freckle-faced character is TV legend.
According to TMZ, “authorities in Indiana got a call just after 4 PM ET Saturday from someone reporting an ‘unresponsive female.’ EMT’s arrived and found Erin Moran’s body … she was already dead.”
It was unclear who reported the situation to police. The statement from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department read that a 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.”
Henry Winkler, Moran’s co-star on Happy Days who played the iconic character of “The Fonz,” responded to news of Moran’s death with an emotional Twitter post. He wrote, “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely now.. too soon.”
Other Happy Days co-stars and friends also remembered Moran’s gentle nature.
“She truly cared about others first, a true angel. I will miss her so much…she is in God’s hands,” said Anson Williams, who played Potsie on the series.
Don Most (who played Ralph) released a statement that said, “I am so incredibly sad to hear about Erin. She was a wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman. As I write this I can’t really comprehend this right now. A very painful loss. It gives me some comfort to know that she’s with Tom, Al, Pat and Garry. Rest In Peace, sweet Erin.”
Moran had much reported personal struggles throughout the years.
Daily Variety reports, “She was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park in Indiana, along with her husband, because of their hard-partying ways.”
In the 1980s, she also starred with Scott Baio in the spin off Joanie Loves Chachi, but it was short-lived.
Moran was found “by Harrison County dispatch officers in Indiana responding to an ‘unresponsive female’ report. Upon arriving at the scene, officers identified Moran and she (was) pronounced dead at the scene, a Harrison County Sheriff official confirmed,” reports The Hollywood Reporter.
TMZ reports that drinking issues led Moran to the hard times. Despite reports of troubles in her marriage four years ago, The New York Daily News reports that her name was Erin Marie Moran Fleischmann at the time of death.
“A combination of drinking and bizarre behavior” are what “eventually landed her in a trailer park in Indiana. She had run out of money and was reportedly kicked out of the mobile home she shared with husband Steve Fleischmann,” reports TMZ. In 2012, reported RadarOnline, “In recent months, Erin, 52, has been hotel-hopping around town after becoming homeless and even got into a drunken brawl with her mother-in-law…she was scheduled to tape an episode of Dr. Phil McGraw’s talk show but didn’t show up.”