Tom Bosley, Happy Days Dad, Dead at 83

Beloved actor played Howard Cunningham on top-rated comedy

By Joal Ryan Oct 19, 2010 6:47 PMTags
Happy DaysABC

Farewell, Mr. C.

Tom Bosley, who as 1950s Happy Days dad Howard Cunningham was the leading TV dad of the 1970s, died today after what his family termed a "brief battle" with lung cancer. He was 83.

Bosley passed away at a Palm Springs-area hospital, his agent, Sheryl Abrams, told E! News.

On Happy Days, Bosley ran a hardware store, and the Cunningham clan—although he was usually more in charge at the store. His TV charges included Ron Howard, as son Richie, Erin Moran, as daughter Joanie, and Henry Winkler, as Fonzie, the ratings draw who moved into the house.

"We were a make-believe family for 10 years, and like a real family for over 30. He will be so, so missed," Winkler told E! News.

Scott Baio, who played Fonzie relation Chachi, yet another regular at the Cunninghams, echoed the sentiment: "He was like everybody's father on Happy Days," he told E! News. "He was a good guy and he helped us all within the business and in terms of business. He was a professional and funny guy. I miss him."

Bosley, with a face as open as his voice was warm, became a name in the late 1950s via the hit Broadway musical, Fiorello! Aside from his Emmy-nominated Happy Days run, his TV credits included: the 1987-1991 detective series, Father Dowling Mysteries; a recurring role as the sheriff of Cabot Cove on Murder, She Wrote; and the 1970s domestic-comedy toon, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

Incidentally, as familiar as Bosley's voice was it was often confused for that of another 1970s staple, David Doyle, and so it was no coincidence that when producers cast Doyle in Charlie's Angels they named his character, yes, Bosley. ("When I first saw the name…on my script, I said, 'No, this has gotta go!," Doyle related in 1977.)  

According to Palm Spring's Desert Sun, the ever-active Bosley was set to host a local stage show this coming February.

"I'm a very happy man," Bosley said in 1991. "As long as I'm healthy and people are interested, I'll continue to act."

The passing of Bosley comes just days after that of another beloved TV parent, Barbara Billingsley, who played the mom on Leave It to Beaver

(Originally published Oct. 19, 2010, at 11:03 a.m. PT)