An autopsy has revealed actress Erin Moran’s cause of death as likely complications due to stage 4 cancer, not a drug overdose.
Moran, best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham in the television sitcom “Happy Days” and its later spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi,” died at the age of 56 on April 22, 2017. She was found unresponsive by paramedics in her trailer home in New Salisbury, Indiana, when they responded to a 911 call.
Early reports claimed Moran had died from a heroin overdose, but the autopsy has invalidated that claim. Authorities have confirmed that no illegal substances were found in Moran’s home.
Friends and fellow stars took to social media over the weekend to talk about their often complicated relationships with the troubled former child star, who suffered from mental illness, substance abuse, poverty and homelessness in the years following her big role as a young girl growing up and falling in love in front of the nation.
“Such sad news,” wrote director Ron Howard, who played Joanie’s older brother Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days” alongside Moran. “RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”
“Oh Erin,” tweeted Henry Winkler, who co-starred in “Happy Days” as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli. “Now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth … Rest In It serenely now … too soon.”
Child star advocate and former child star of “The Donna Reed Show,” Paul Peterson posted about how he and other stars had tried to reach out to Moran in recent years as she faced increasing troubles in her personal life, saying the actress was resistant to help:
We Pulled Our Weight With Erin
I am proud of our efforts over the years to help Erin Moran whose troubles were many and complex. Don’t doubt for a moment that we tried… sincerely tried through time and treasure… to give comfort to one of our own.
At least a half-dozen ‘formers’ [former child stars] were actively reaching out to Erin in the last week of her life. These aren’t publicity photos her friends are posting, but family portraits. From Paris to London, from New York to LA, our members were in there pitching, doing what they could to help. Do not doubt that for a minute.
Erin had friends and she knew it. Abandonment was not the issue. The perversity of human frailty is at the root of this loss, not failure. We did our best with the resources available to us, but it was a very dark room. Some don’t find the light switch in time.
In a 2009 interview with Xfinity, Moran talked about her life as a child star while working on an autobiography that was to be titled “Happy Days, Depressing Nights.” While much of her life was troubled, Moran remembered her relationships with others in the cast fondly.
“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” Moran said. “It was so surreal with all the cast members. There was another moment where we forgot we were doing scenes. We forgot we were acting. They were my family, get it?”
Sources: Ron Howard/Twitter, Henry Winkler/Twitter, Paul Peterson/Facebook, Xfinity / Photo credit: CBS Television/Wikimedia Commons