Cindy Williams, Shirley of Laverne & Shirley, Dead at 75

Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley fame has died at the age of 75.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

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Cindy Williams (left) and Penny Marshall on Laverne & Shirley

Cindy Williams, best known for portraying the bubbly Shirley Feeney in the comedy Laverne & Shirley, has died at age 75. Her death was confirmed by her children, Zak and Emily Hudson, via the Associated Press. Family spokesperson, Liza Cranistold told the publication the actress passed away in her Los Angeles home after a brief illness.

“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed. Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”

-Liza Cranistold’s statement to the press

Cindy Williams worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood during her film career before making it big in sitcoms. The actress appeared in George Cukor’s 1972 film Travels with My Aunt, the 1973 movie American Graffiti from George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in 1974.

Her big television break came in 1975 when the actress was cast as Shirley in ABC’s Happy Days. Along with her best friend, Laverne DeFazio (portrayed by Penny Marshall), she went on a double date with Richie and Fonzie. The characters were a hit with fans, which led to Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall’s characters getting a Laverne & Shirley spinoff.

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Cindy Williams (left) and Penny Marshall on Laverne & Shirley

Created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz, and Mark Rothman, the story chronicled the duo’s adventures as they navigated life in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Led by Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall, Laverne & Shirley became the most-watched show on television in its third season. The series also earned six Golden Globe Award nominations and one Emmy Award nod.

The series ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, when Cindy Williams departed Laverne & Shirley when she became pregnant with her first child. Following news of her passing, friends and fans of the actress took to social media to honor her memory. Happy Days star and film director Ron Howard said she was an unpretentious intelligence who impacted every character she created.

Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie on Happy Days, described Cindy Williams as a fine and talented human being, who he loved before she signed on for Laverne & Shirley. “Cindy has been my friend and professional colleague since I met her in 1975,” he said via Variety. “Not once have I ever been in her presence when she wasn’t gracious, thoughtful, and kind.”

Cindy Williams returned to sitcoms in the 1990s, after the success of Laverne & Shirley. She starred in Normal Life and Getting By, from producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett. Her other career credits include Bingo, Meet Wally Sparks, The Biggest Fan, Strip Mall, For Your Love, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules, and Girlfriends.

In 2013, Cindy Williams reunited with her Laverne & Shirley co-star Penny Marshall for an episode of the Nickelodeon comedy Sam & Cat. The pair portrayed the creators of a ’70s sitcom. As her family mourns her loss, the 75-year-old will also be missed by her colleagues and fans.