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Tom Bosley of 'Happy Days' dead at 83

By Alan Duke, CNN
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"Happy Days" dad Tom Bosley dies
  • NEW: "The Fonz" calls Bosley "a family member"
  • Ron Howard calls Bosley "remarkable on many levels"
  • Bosley started on stage, winning a Tony in 1959
  • He played the dad on television show "Happy Days"

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- "Happy Days" dad Tom Bosley died of heart failure Tuesday after a battle with lung cancer, his wife said. He was 83.

Bosley's 50 years as a television actor included roles on dozens of shows, but he was best known as Howard Cunningham, the patriarch of a 1950s "Happy Days" family, a show that aired for 11 seasons starting in 1974.

"Remarkable on so many levels, Tom's insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the 'Happy Days' experience," said Ron Howard, who played his son, Richie. "A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it."

Henry Winkler, who was "The Fonz" on "Happy Days," said Bosley "was a family member, both on and off the sound stage."

"We acted together, traveled together and played charades together," Winkler said. "He was a loving husband, a doting father and a fantastic grandfather. He will be so missed but never forgotten by the Winkler family or the world."

Bosley's professional acting career began on stage in the 1950s, including a Tony for his role as New York City Mayor LaGuardia in the 1959 musical "Fiorello!"

He had just completed chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, which was diagnosed five months ago, when he suffered heart failure, his wife, Patricia Carr, said.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced, but the family is asking people to make donations to their favorite cancer charity.

iReport: Fans say goodbye

Before his "Happy Days" work, Bosley found regular work on "Love, American Style," "Night Gallery," "The Debbie Reynolds Show" and dozens of other television shows.

Bosley stayed busy through the 1980s, including several "Love Boat" episodes.

He co-starred on 19 episodes of Angela Lansbury's "Murder, She Wrote" between 1984 and 1988.

Bosley played the title role in "Father Dowling Mysteries," a series that ran on television for four years, beginning in 1987 and his distinctive voice was heard in numerous broadcast commercials and animation productions.

CNN's Brittany Kaplan contributed to this report.