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Laverne & Shirley Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The iconic '70's sitcom "Laverne & Shirley" topped the Nielsen charts for two seasons during its eight-year run on ABC, and it finished near the top of the charts for two more. In spite of its long-held reputation for difficulties and drama behind the scenes, which culminated in a $20 million lawsuit when Cindy Williams (Shirley Feeney) quit (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet), it still holds a favorable reputation among TV junkies who adored the over-the-top antics of two blue-collar beer factory bottle cappers struggling through life as single, working women in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Four decades later, the show's reruns air heavily on the Logo network, and they even have a streaming channel, Pluto TV, that it shares with "Mork and Mindy" and "Happy Days." Sadly, given how many years have passed, some of the cast members from "Laverne & Shirley" are no longer with us. Let's learn more about those we've lost over the years.

Penny Marshall was much more than Laverne

Penny Marshall was a struggling actress when her brother Garry offered her the chance to guest-star on his blockbuster sitcom "Happy Days" as one of two good-time girls on a double date with Fonzie and Richie Cunningham. Neither of the Marshalls knew the guest spot would lead Penny to a spotlight of her own as the acerbic, dry-eyed Laverne DeFazio on "Laverne & Shirley." Laverne was a man-hungry tomboy who was always good-hearted and loyal, especially to Shirley, her best friend since grade school.

After the show ended, Marshall would act sparingly (via IMDb) — most notably appearing as The Master's Wife in "Hocus Pocus" (1993) and on the small screen as Sylvia Burke in a 2013 episode of the Nickcom "Sam & Cat," which reunited her with "L&S" costar Cindy Williams. She portrayed Ms. Botz on "The Simpsons" episode "Some Enchanted Evening" in 1990, becoming the show's very first celebrity guest star. Her final role was as Patty Dombrowski in the 2016 "Odd Couple" episode "Taffy Days," which served as a tribute to her brother, Garry, whose storied career had included producing, directing, and acting on "Laverne & Shirley." Garry passed away on July 19, 2016, of pneumonia after suffering a stroke at the age of 81, according to USA Today.

Penny Marshall's destiny generally lay on the opposite side of the camera — she went on to have a stellar career as a director, becoming the first female director to top $100 million at the U.S. box office with her first effort, "Big" (1988). Major successes "A League of Their Own" (1992), "Awakenings" (1990), and "The Preacher's Wife" (1996) followed.

After successfully overcoming lung cancer, which she later revealed had metastasized to her brain, per an interview with Fox411, Marshall died at the age of 75 on December 17, 2018, according to The New York Times. The main cause listed on her death certificate was heart failure, with diabetes and cardiovascular disease being named as additional causes, according to TMZ.

David L. Lander became an activist

David L. Lander portrayed the spit-curled, high-tempered Andrew "Squiggy" Squiggman on "Laverne & Shirley." His signature catchphrase was a simple "hello," uttered as he barged through Laverne and Shirley's front door, usually after they'd declared their disgust over some subject or object. With his partner in crime, Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean), Squiggy spent his days thinking of get-rich-quick schemes — when he and Lenny weren't trying their best to pick up Laverne and Shirley.

According to NBC News, McKean and Lander created Lenny and Squiggy back in college in the mid-1960s, going on to hone the double act as part of the improvisational comedy group The Credibility Gap, which also featured future "L&S" writer and guest star Harry Shearer. An improv routine at a party thrown by Rob Reiner and Penny Marshall to celebrate the sale of the show landed them jobs on the show's writing staff, according to Lander via an interview with Pop Goes The Culture TV. Penny Marshall encouraged them to write themselves into the show, they noted a plot hole in the first episode, and they patched Lenny and Squiggy into the story. The rest was sitcom history.

Lander went on to appear in over 100 film and television productions, most notably as the voice of Smart Ass (via IMDb), Judge Doom's weasel henchman in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" His final role was as Rumpelstiltskin in the 2017 Disney Junior series "Goldie & Bear."

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984, just a year after "Laverne & Shirley" concluded its network run. He didn't reveal his diagnosis publicly until 1999 through People magazine, and he later detailed his experience with the disease in his autobiography, "Fall Down, Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody," published in 2002. He eventually went on to work as a goodwill ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Lander passed away on December 4, 2020, at the age of 73, according to The New York Times. Complications from multiple sclerosis were the cause of death (via NBC News).

Betty Garrett went from big screen blockbusters to the small screen

Betty Garrett made quite an impression on "Laverne & Shirley" as the girls' feisty landlady, the multi-time divorcee Edna Babbish. Introduced in Season 2, Edna was always on hand to provide advice and a shoulder to cry on. In Season 5, she married Laverne's widowed father, Frank, and the twosome became co-owners of a franchise restaurant called Cowboy Bill's when the show's characters moved from Wisconsin to California in Season 6. Believing that the sixth season of "Laverne & Shirley" would be the last, Garrett booked a role in a play, only to find out that the show had been renewed after all, according to a 2010 Television Academy interview. After the show ignored Edna's absence in Season 7, she was subsequently written out in its eighth season, with Frank informing viewers that she had left him for a matador.

Before "Laverne and Shirley," Garrett appeared in such splashy MGM musical affairs as "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "On the Town," both released in 1949 (via IMDb), before getting caught up in the Hollywood blacklisting scandal. According to a 2004 interview with FilmTalk and IMDb, her husband, actor Larry Parks, was forced to testify, which made work difficult for both of them to find. Parks survived by founding a successful construction firm and becoming a landlord, and Garrett eventually found further work onstage. 

She joined the cast of the hit CBS sitcom "All in the Family" in 1973 as the handy and physically active Irene Lozano and remained with the show until 1975, winning a Golden Globe in 1974 for the role. After "L&S," further stage work and guest-starring roles kept her busy until her death. Garrett even tap-danced at the show's 2002 reunion special.

Betty Garrett died at 91 on February 12, 2011. An aortic aneurysm was named as the cause of death, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

Phil Foster spent his whole life working in comedy

Loud, opinionated, and gruff, Frank DeFazio cut an imposing yet loving figure on "Laverne & Shirley." Though Frank's traditional beliefs clashed frequently with his daughter Laverne's more modern ways, it was made clear that he always had his daughter's best interests at heart, eventually even quasi-adopting Shirley into the DeFazio clan as well.

Frank's actor, Phil Foster, got his performing start as a kid in New York, according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, and went on to perform in amateur shows. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he took up a career in variety shows and as a stand-up comic. Eventually, he fostered a friendship with Garry Marshall, who became his gag writer. Marshall's loyalty to Foster led in turn to Foster's "L&S" gig.

Foster went on to write two scripts for "Laverne and Shirley" and continued to work as a stand-up comic. He used to joke that "the only steady jobs he held were 'Laverne & Shirley' and World War II," according to family friend Dottie Archibald (via the Chicago Tribune).

Foster died of a heart attack on July 8, 1985, according to the Chicago Tribune. He'd undergone bypass surgery nine years before his death and had been out golfing the morning prior to his hospitalization.

Cindy Williams was a TV icon

As perky, positive Shirley, Cindy Williams often served as a foil to Penny Marshall's Laverne. The two may have been polar opposites, but they remained the best of friends throughout the run of "Laverne & Shirley," but it was far from the only credit Williams had to her name.

After graduating college, Williams landed a slew of commercial roles, but it wasn't long before she was working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. She appeared in "American Graffiti," directed by George Lucas," and later "The Conversation" from Francis Ford Coppola. While those roles earned her acclaim, it wasn't until she landed the role of Shirley Feeney that she acquired international acclaim. 

Her and Penny Marshall first appeared as those characters on "Happy Days," but they were such a hit they spun off into their own series. "Laverne & Shirley" ran from 1976 to 1982, becoming one of the most popular shows during that time period. Williams even spoke about the show's massive influence without really comprehending what it meant, saying, "They'd run these numbers past us like, '60 million people are watching,' but we had no concept of that. We'd been sort of thrown into it, and we were working really hard" (via Twin Cities Pioneer Press).

Cindy Williams died on January 25, 2023 after a brief illness, according to Associated Press. Her children released a statement following her passing: "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."