cindy williams
The Everett Collection

Cindy Williams, who starred in “Laverne & Shirley,” died at 75 following a brief illness, according to her family. Williams portrayed Shirley alongside Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the popular sitcom.

The family’s spokesperson, Liza Cranis, released a statement on behalf of Williams’ children. The statement reads, “The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed. Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”

It continues, “We have always been, and will remain, SO proud of her for many things…her lifelong mission to rescue animals, her prolific artistry, her faith, and most of all, her ability to make the world laugh! May that laughter continue in everyone because she would want that. Thank you for loving our Mom; she loved you too.”

Williams also starred in director George Lucas’ 1973 film “American Graffiti” and director Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” in 1974. But she was by far best known for “Laverne & Shirley,” the “Happy Days” spinoff that ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983 and that, in its prime, was among the most popular shows on TV. Williams played the moralistic Shirley to Marshall’s more libertine Laverne on the show about roommates who worked at a Milwaukee bottling factory in the 1950s and 60s.

Williams made a few guest appearances on “Law and Order: SVU,” “7th Haven,” and “8 Simple Rules” in her acting career. Other television roles include “The Odd Couple,” “A Dream of Christmas,” “Sam and Cat,” and “Getting By and Normal Life.”

Williams was known for a few other things outside her acting career. The actress expressed her strong faith in God in some interviews during her career and in her book, “Shirley, I Jest: A Storied Life.” In 2015, Williams spoke of her belief in God when her book came out in interviews connected to the book’s release. In an interview with Psychology Today, Williams said, “Well, I was just born with it. He was always present. So if it was imbued in my spirit, I mean, it gets really heady.”

She added, “I don’t know how I can talk about this, but God was imbued in me from the time of my birth, and me in Him. And I just had this sense of always being all right, even though the situation might be dire.” She said that even “when horrible things would befall me, I still felt that presence, that spirit of unconditional love. I always like to think of Him as a person, as my father in heaven or as my God, but he doesn’t care.”

Williams described going to Sunday school as an “escape” from her father’s alcoholism. She wrote in her book, “I learned all of my Bible stories. I loved all of the powerful images and escaped into them. Jesus and Moses and the great people in the Bible. For that hour in Sunday school, I was safe.” Cindy Williams leaves behind two children, Emily and Zach Hudson.

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