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Happy Days dad Tom Bosley dies at 83

Tom Bosley, whose long acting career was highlighted by his hugely popular role as the understanding father on television’s nostalgic, top-rated 1970s comedy series “Happy Days,” died Tuesday. He was 83.

Bosley died of heart failure at a hospital near his Palm Springs home. Bosley’s agent, Sheryl Abrams, said he was also battling lung cancer.

TV Guide ranked Bosley’s Happy Days character No. 9 on its list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in 2004. The show debuted in 1974 and ran for 11 seasons.

“Tom’s insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the ‘Happy Days’ experience. A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it,” said a statement from Ron Howard, who played Bosley’s son, Richie Cunningham.

“My last conversations with Tom reflected the love of life and peace of mind that he always maintained throughout his full and rewarding life. I miss him already,” Howard said.

“He was my husband for 11 years and the father of the company in many ways,” said Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on the show. “He was so smart he could fix the end of a joke or a scene on the spot. We made a perfect couple. I played picolo to his tuba.”

Although “Happy Days” brought him his widest fame, Tom Bosley had made his mark on Broadway 15 years before when he turned in a Tony Award-winning performance in the title role in “Fiorello!”