Stars from Happy Days reunited to pay their final respects to Erin Moran, the actress with the sweet smile who played Joanie Cunningham on the hit ’70s show. She died in her home in New Salisbury, Ind., on April 22. The 56-year-old, who had a rough time handling her stardom after her early TV success, had been battling stage IV cancer.
After Erin Moran died on April 22, the “Happy Days” crew turned out in full force to mourn her. Scott Baio (Chachi), Cathy Silvers (Jenny), Marion Ross (Marion), Anson Williams (Potsie), Ron Howard (Richie), and Don Most (Ralph) all attended the May 3 memorial service of their dearly departed co-star, alongside Moran’s other loved ones.
Baio was one of the cast members to share the photo on social media. The actor, who co-starred with Moran on Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, was widely criticized for saying the actress’s death may have been due to substance abuse problems. (“If you do drugs or drink, you’re going to die,” he told New York’s WABC radio. Authorities later determined she “likely succumbed to complications of stage IV cancer.”
Moran’s husband, Steven Fleischmann, released an open letter about her final months and asked Erin’s famous friends to share it in hopes it would put rumors about her death to rest. He detailed her diagnosis last November after finding a “dime-size bloodstain on her pillowcase.” By mid-February, she “could no longer speak or eat or drink.” When she passed, she was holding his hand.
Anson Williams shared Erin’s husband Steven Fleischmann’s open letter:
Erin Moran’s husband’s loving letter explaining Erin’s final days.
Erin Moran’s husband, Steven Fleischmann, says he was with the actress up until the day she died on Saturday, April 22.
Officials told ET that the 56-year-old actress likely died due to complications of stage four cancer, and in an open letter — which was shared on Facebook by Moran’s Happy Days co-star, Scott Baio — Moran’s husband talks about her health.
“Erin and I met [on] April 22, 1993, and parted ways April, 22, 2017. We were planning to go to Thunder Over Louisville to celebrate,” he writes, referring to the annual kickoff event of the Kentucky Derby Festival that took place over the weekend. “She was feeling fine on our anniversary.”
Fleischmann recalls that in November, Moran noticed that there was a “dime-size blood stain on her pillowcase.” After the problem persisted, her husband took a look inside her mouth and noticed that it was her tonsil that was bleeding.
Fleischmann writes that Moran had a biopsy and the results showed that she had “squamous cell carcinoma.” a form of skin cancer. “She started radiation and chemo. Five days a week radiation and chemo, only on Thursdays. We did that the whole time,” he notes. “It got so bad, so fast. By the middle of February, Erin could no longer speak or eat or drink. She had a feeding tube implant and I fed her six to eight times a day.”
Moran’s husband says, despite being weak, the actress “was still happy” and “texted people on her phone all day.” However, Fleischmann writes that on April 21, “she was having trouble breathing,” and the next day, “she was not 100 percent.”
“She needed Kleenex, so I went to the store and came back. She was there watching TV in bed. I laid down next to her, held her right hand in my left,” he recalls. “I fell asleep, woke up about a hour later, still holding her hand and she was gone. She was just gone.
Fleischmann also says the Harrison County Coroner’s Office told him that the cancer had spread to Moran’s spleen and “she had a lot of fluid in her lungs and part of her brain was infected.”
“The coroner said even if she was in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics, she still would not of made it,” he continues. “He said it was the best that she was with me and went in her sleep.”
Fleischmann goes on to ask that Moran’s fans, friends and family “feel free” to share his letter, adding that the “press has been relentless.”
“We will see what tomorrow brings,” he concludes. “PEACE my friends.”
Ron Howard, who went on from Happy Days to become one of the most well-known moviemakers in the world, talked about Moran during an interview on The Talk last week. He described Happy Days as a bit of “boys’ club,” but noted that Erin, who was looked at as the “kid” on the show, could hold her own when she needed to.
“I do remember a particular moment where we were in rehearsal … and somehow it was kinda turning into a shaving cream fight, and she did sneak up behind Henry Winkler with a pretty good shaving cream pie and get him,” Howard recalled. While he hinted at her troubled past, he said he’ll remember her as the “feisty, spirited girl” he knew on the set. “What a great, irrepressible spirit … and a wonderful talent.”
One of the Happy Days stars notably missing from the group photo was Henry Winkler, who played the Fonz. Extra reports he was busy with obligations related to promoting a new book. However, after Moran’s passing, he issued a statement remembering “her sweet smile that greeted me” when he walked onto the Happy Days set in 1974. He added that she “will always be locked in my heart.”
Also missing, of course, are Tom Bosley, who played Mr. C, and Al Molinaro, who played Al. They have both passed away over the last six years.