The "Happy Days" family. From left, Pictured are Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran and Ron Howard.
The “Happy Days” family. From left, Pictured are Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran and Ron Howard.

An autopsy showed Monday that Stage 4 cancer was the likely cause of death for Erin Moran, America’s little sister Joanie Cunningham on the popular sitcom “Happy Days” four decades ago. She died at age 56.

The former child actress, who was reportedly either homeless or living in a trailer park, was discovered by emergency responders in Harrison County, Indiana.

Her body was found Saturday. The sheriff’s department that covers her hometown of New Salisbury, Ind. issued a statement about the cancer determination.

According to some media reports, Moran had years ago married a Walmart worker and they had moved to Indiana to live with her husband’s mother in a trailer park.

Moran, who was from Burbank, was cast as Joanie Cunningham in 1974, when she played little sister to Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham. She was 13 years old at the time, and the series ran for 11 seasons. Her character blossomed from a freckle-faced young teen to a major adult part of the show.

The actress also starred in the “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi” opposite Scott Baio. That program failed to attract necessary public attention, and she was never able to find a major role again.

She later made appearances on TV’s ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote.’

There were reports that she was either homeless at the time of her death or that she had been living in an Indiana trailer park. Years ago she admitted to a newspaper that she had suffered from depression.

Moran’s co-stars, as well as her fans, paid tribute to the actress after hearing news of her death.

Now a famed director, then-teen Happy Days co-star Ron Howard took to Twitter, saying, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin.”

Henry Winkler, who played Fonzi on “Happy Days,” also tweeted.

Baio also sent out his condolences.


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