Beloved actress Erin Moran passed away over the weekend at the age of 56. Police received a 911 call about an unresponsive female in rural New Salisbury, Indiana. When responders arrived, it was too late; they determined that the woman, identified as Moran, had deceased. Officials have revealed the likely cause of death to be complications from stage 4 cancer.
Moran skyrocketed to fame when she was cast as Joanie Cunningham, the feisty younger sister of Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard), on the 1970’s popular sitcom Happy Days. Erin started on the show at the age of 13 and audiences got to watch her grow up amidst a seemingly innocent backdrop of 1950’s Milwaukee. The show was a hit, running eleven seasons between 1974 and 1984. And it inspired the short-lived spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi in which Moran starred alongside Scott Baio.
In a 2009 Xfinity interview, Moran expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the latter show, saying, “I don’t have any favorite episodes from ‘Joanie Loves Chachi.’ I liked working with the people. But I didn’t even want to do it. I was talked into it. I wanted to stay on ‘Happy Days.’ They were running them at the same time.” Elaborating on her Happy Days costars, she continued, “What happened with all of us was like we were this family. It was so surreal with all the cast members. There was another moment where we forgot we were doing scenes. We forgot we were acting. They were my family, get it?”
Born in Burbank, Moran’s mother supported her daughter’s interest in acting by signing her with an agent when she was just five years old. Soon thereafter, Erin was cast in a commercial followed by roles in television shows including Daktari, GunSmoke, and Family Affair.
After Happy Days, Moran appeared on several shows including The Bold and the Beautiful, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. She was also featured on VH1’s reality show Celebrity Fit Club in 2008.
However, Moran’s later years were riddled with hardship. In a 1988 interview, she revealed she struggled with depression and was unable to attain acting roles. Various media outlets have tried to piece together aspects of Moran’s personal life over the years. For example, TMZ reported Moran’s Palmdale, California home had been foreclosed on in 2010. About two years later, ABC News reported she and her second husband, Steven Fleischmann moved into Fleischmann’s mother’s trailer in Indiana so Moran could act as her caregiver. And in 2017, Variety magazine said she had “fallen on hard times in recent years. She was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park home in Indiana because of her hard-partying ways.”
Since Moran’s passing, People magazine reached out to Erin’s neighbors. They remembered her as a friendly, energetic, and down-to-earth member of their mobile home community although she became more reclusive in recent months.
Many condolences from Moran’s costars have been pouring in.
Scott Baio wrote a heartfelt Twitter post saying, “May people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal loving soul. I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin. My sincere condolences.”
Henry Winkler who played the leather-clad greaser “Fonzie” on Happy Days tried to get Moran a role in his comedic TV series Arrested Development when he perceived she was going through hard times. This weekend he tweeted, “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely.. too soon”
Her television brother, Ron Howard tweeted, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”
Willie Aames wrote, “I’ve known Erin Moran since childhood doing ‘GunSmoke’. More recently as a troubled soul. So saddened to hear of her passing. RIP ERIN”
While many people in social media have reacted to Moran’s death by calling out various contacts from her career, child actor advocate Paul Peterson who starred in The Donna Reed Show has come forward stating that “at least six” former child stars attempted to reach out to Moran and help her. Peterson wrote, “I am proud of our efforts over the years to help Erin Moran whose troubles were many and complex…Don’t doubt for a moment that we tried…sincerely tried through time and treasure…to give comfort to one of our own…Erin had friends and she knew it.”