(CNN) — Cindy Williams, the dynamic actress best known for playing the bubbly Shirley Feeney on the popular sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has died, according to a statement from her family provided to CNN by a representative would. She was 75.
Williams died after a short illness, according to her children Zak and Emily Hudson’s statement, which was provided to CNN by family spokesperson and Williams’ personal assistant, Liz Cranis.
“The death of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us an overwhelming sadness that could never truly be expressed,” her statement read. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was unique, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and sparkling spirit that everyone loved.”
Williams had credits for six decades, but it was her role in Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley that endeared her to millions and made her a household name.
On the series, she starred alongside the late Penny Marshall as one half of a dynamic duo of friends whose adventures fueled the show, which ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983.
work and recognition
Born in Van Nuys, California, Williams’ interest in acting led her to study theater at Los Angeles City College, according to a biography provided by her family. Williams’ first professional acting credits include a three-episode arc on the 1969 series Room 222 and appearances on other shows such as Nanny and the Professor and Love, American Style in the early 1970s.
Williams became a prolific television and film actor, appearing in dozens of titles. But it wasn’t until she made her debut as Shirley Feeney in 1975’s Happy Days that her career began to take shape.
The upbeat “Laverne & Shirley” proved to be a hit and garnered six Golden Globe nominations, including two for Best Comedy Series and one for Williams for Best Actress in a Comedy Category.
Williams also appeared in several outstanding films. Most notably, she starred in the 1973 George Lucas 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 going to college, was nominated for five Oscars at the 1974 Oscars, including Best Picture. Williams also had roles in George Cukor’s acclaimed films Travels with My Aunt in 1972 and director Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in 1974.
Williams was also an accomplished stage actress with a long list of credits. Last year, she embarked on a national tour with her one-woman show Me, Myself and Shirley, in which she shared stories from across her career. She had at least a series of dates scheduled for later this year.
Following news of her death, 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,” shared Yvette Nicole Brown, who worked with Williams in 2016 when she starred in an episode of “The Odd Couple” on CBS Twitter. “She was as beautiful as I had always imagined.”
Actor Jason Alexander continued to write Twitter: “I didn’t know Cindy Williams, but boy did I admire her work, especially the crazy, happy, fun enjoyment of watching her Laverne and Shirley days. I pray that she had a good life and send my condolences to those who knew and loved her.”
The Williams children added in their statement that they are proud of their mother for many reasons – including “her lifelong mission to save animals, her prolific artistry, her faith” – but most importantly her ability to make the world a better place bring laughter! ”
“May that laughter continue in everyone because that’s what she would want,” the statement read. “Thank you for loving our mother, she loved you too.”
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