Cindy Williams, the dynamic actress best known for playing the bubbly Shirley Feeney on the beloved sitcom “Lavern & Shirley,” has died, according to a statement from her family provided to CNN by a representative. She was 75 years old.
A statement from his children Zak and Emily Hudson, provided to CNN by family spokeswoman and Williams' personal assistant Liz Kranis, said Williams died after a short illness.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us a great sadness that can never be expressed,” their statement read. “It has been our joy and privilege to know and love him. She was kind, beautiful, generous and had a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful soul that everyone loved.
Williams had six decades to her credit, but it was her role in the “Happy Days” spin-off “Lavern & Shirley” that endeared her to millions and made her a household name.
In the series, he starred alongside the late Penny Marshall as one half of a dynamic friend duo whose adventures powered the show, which ran for eight seasons from 1976–1983.
Born in Van Nuys, California, Williams' interest in acting throughout high school led her to study theater at Los Angeles City College, according to a biography provided by her family. Some of Williams' first professional acting credits include a three-episode arc on the 1969 series “Room 222” and appearances on other shows in the early 1970s such as “Nanny and the Professor” and “Love, American Style.”
Williams went on to become a prolific working television and film actor, appearing in dozens of titles. But her career began to take shape after she first appeared as Shirley Feeney in “Happy Days” in 1975.
The light-hearted “Lavern & Shirley” proved to be a ratings hit and earned six Golden Globe nominations, including two for Best Comedy Series and one for Williams in the Best Actress in a Comedy category.
Williams also appeared in several paranormal films. Notably, she starred in George Lucas' 1973 film “American Graffiti”, which earned Williams a British Academy Film Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The film, about a group of friends who spend a wild night together before leaving for college, was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, at the 1974 Academy Awards. Williams also had roles in the acclaimed films “Travels with My Aunt” by George Cukor in 1972 and “The Conversation” by director Francis Ford Coppola in 1974.
With a long list of credits, Williams was also an accomplished stage actress. Last year, she took her one-woman show, “Me, Myself & Shirley,” where she shared stories from throughout her career, on a national tour. She had at least a series of dates scheduled for later this year.
Upon news of her passing, Williams' friends and fans took to social media to honor the late actress who left a legacy of laughter.
“Oh how I loved Cindy Williams,” Yvette Nicole Brown, who worked with Williams in 2016, shared when she guest-starred on an episode of CBS's “The Odd Couple.” Twitter, “She was just as sweet as I always imagined she would be.”
Actor Jason Alexander wrote Twitter: “I didn't know Cindy Williams, but did adore her work, especially the wacky delightful joy of watching her days at the Louvre and Shirley. I pray she has a good life and my thoughts go out to those people.” Sympathy goes out to those who knew and loved him.”
In their statement, Williams' children said they were proud of their mother for many reasons — “her lifelong mission to save animals, her exuberant artistry, her faith” — but “most of all, her ability to make the world laugh!”
“May that smile be in everyone, because that's what she deserves,” the statement said. “Thank you for loving our mother, she loved you too.”