Actress Dawn Wells, a former Miss America contestant who gained international fame portraying castaway Mary Ann on the classic sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday from complications of COVID-19 at age 82.
Her publicist, Harlan Boll, confirmed her death, saying Wells “passed peacefully this morning, in no pain, as a result of complications due to COVID.”
“With over 540,000 fans on her Facebook page and fan clubs across the U.S., her following has remained faithful,” Boll wrote in a social media post announcing her death. “Dawn would say that Mary Ann fits today just as she fit three generations ago, because she is timeless. In a world where the industry and society has been celebrating their `bad girls,’ Mary Ann continues to be, for man, the breath of fresh air as the `good girl.”’
A native of Reno, Wells was Miss Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant before moving to Hollywood and beginning appearances on a string of shows, including “Bonanza,” “Maverick” and “77 Sunset Strip.”
But she struck gold when she was cast as Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers on Sherwood Schwartz’s “Gilligan’s Island,” the tale of seven castaways on an uncharted island. The show ran from 1964-67, but lived on for generations through syndication. The show was also parlayed into a series of made-for-TV movies.
With Wells’ death, Tina Louise — who portrayed starlet Ginger — is the only surviving original cast member from the show, which also featured Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer and Russell Johnson.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in name to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum or The Shambala Preserve, Boll said.