UPDATED: 04/24/2017 09:03AM PST
CORYDON, Ind. (CBS SF/AP) — Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi,” died Saturday at age 56.

A statement from the sheriff’s department in Harrison County, Indiana, said the dispatcher “received a 911 call about an unresponsive female. Upon arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Moran Fleischmann was deceased.” The dispatcher confirmed to The Associated Press that the woman was the actress, who had been married to Steven Fleischmann.

Authorities say Moran likely died from cancer at her southern Indiana home. A statement released Monday by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department says an autopsy revealed the 56-year-old actress had stage-four cancer, but doesn’t specify what type.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths 2017

Notable Deaths 2017

(credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“Such sad sad news. RIP Erin,” ”Happy Days” star Ron Howard tweeted Saturday. “I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens.”

A Burbank, California, native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 years old. She had several years of experience when she was cast in 1974 in “Happy Days” as Joanie Cunningham, the kid sister to high school student Richie Cunningham, played by Howard. Other cast members included Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as Joanie’s parents and Henry Winkler as the loveable tough guy Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli.

“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” she told Xfinity in 2009. “It was so surreal with all the cast members. … They were my family, get it?”

Debuting at a time of nostalgia for the seemingly innocent 1950s, the sitcom was set in Milwaukee and became a long-running hit. Howard and Winkler were the show’s biggest stars, but the smiling, freckle-faced Moran also became popular. In 1982, she was paired off with fellow “Happy Days” performer Scott Baio in the short-lived “Joanie Loves Chachi.” Moran returned to “Happy Days” in 1984, the show’s final season.

“I would love to do a feature (film), I’d love to do a play,” she told CNN in 1981 when asked what she’d like to do after “Happy Days.”

Her more recent credits included “The Love Boat” and “Murder, She Wrote,” but she never approached the success of “Happy Days” and was more often in the news for her numerous personal and financial struggles and was reportedly homeless at times.

Actress Marion Ross, center is joined by director Garry Marshall, left and fellow "Happy Days" cast members Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Henry Winkler and Anson Williams after Ross received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame July 12, 2001 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Actress Marion Ross, center is joined by director Garry Marshall, left and fellow “Happy Days” cast members Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Henry Winkler and Anson Williams after Ross received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame July 12, 2001 in Hollywood, CA. (credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

In 2011, she and Ross and former “Happy Days” actors Anson Williams and Donnie Most sued CBS, saying they were owed money for merchandising related to the show. The lawsuit was settled the following year.

Moran told Xfinity that she had been working on a memoir, called “Happy Days, Depressing Nights.”

“OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth,” Winkler tweeted Saturday. “Rest In It serenely now.. too soon.”

Scott Baio tweeted: “My sincere condolences. #ErinMoran #HappyDaysFamily”
https://twitter.com/ScottBaio/status/856195273264996352/photo/1

Donnie Most took to Twiiter and posted his condolences to his former co-star “So incredibly sad to hear about Erin. A wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman.I can’t really comprehend this right now.Very painful loss”

Former child actress Erin Murphy, best known for playing Tabitha Stephens on ‘Bewitched’ tweeted a photo of her and Moran:

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Comments (2)