A friend is trying to raise $180,000 for Dawn Wells, and fans of “Gilligan’s Island” are coming to her rescue.
Dawn Wells, the actress best known for her role as Mary Ann in the ’60s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday from COVID-19 complications, her representative told USA TODAY. She was 82.
Wells died Wednesday morning at 7:30 in Los Angeles from “causes related to COVID,” representative Harlan Boll told USA TODAY in an email. He said she “passed peacefully… in no pain.”
Portrayed as a perky wholesome Kansas farm girl, Wells told USA TODAY in 2019 the series always provided some life lessons beyond the comedy.
“It was a fun, silly show that made you laugh and didn’t preach to the audience,” she said. “But there was an awful lot in the character of Mary Ann that kids could learn from today: She was fair, she pitched in to help, she had standards, she wasn’t worried about a $500 purse, and she would be your best friend you could trust.”
More: Mary Ann from ‘Gilligan’s Island’ talks about the show’s 55th anniversary
Dawn Wells poses with a “Gilligan’s Island” poster. (Photo: Bill Down, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum)
Wells enjoyed working on the show and got along with her fellow castaways — even Tina Louise (Ginger), now the only surviving original cast member, despite rumors over the years that the two feuded.
In 2018, a crowdfunding effort to support Wells raised nearly $200,000 for the actress.
“After 2008, like many of us, Dawn suffered through the banking crash and lost everything including her life savings in addition, to a life-threatening surgery which came close to killing her,” explained Doug Kirpatrick, her friend and longtime hairdresser, on the initiative’s page. “Dawn was a victim of an unexpected accident that required hospitalization for two months and a very long time to rest and heal.”
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Wells wrote several books about the show, including her 2014 volume, “A Guide to Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?”
“I wrote the book partly in response to fans over the years,” she previously told USA TODAY. “It’s amazing that so many people still appreciate Mary Ann’s sense of values. It was a show about seven people from various walks of life who were thrown together and had to adapt to get along despite their differences. That’s a lesson we can all learn.”
Dawn is survived by her step sister, Weslee Wells. No services are scheduled at this time, Boll said.
Fellow members of Hollywood and fans alike mourned Wells on Twitter, recalling her role on “Gilligan’s Island” and beyond.
Actor Jon Cryer paid tribute to Wells on Twitter, recalling a time she came to a taping of his sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”
“It was such a thrill for me to meet Dawn Wells when she came to see Two and a Half Men,” Cryer wrote. “She could not have been more lovely and gracious. I’m so grateful that I got to enjoy the work she loved doing.”
“Condolences to the family of Dawn Wells. Very sad,” wrote original “Star Trek” actor William Shatner on Twitter.
“Bewitched” actress Erin Murphy wrote she was “absolutely devastated to share the news that my lifelong friend, Dawn Wells, has passed away.”
“She was feisty, funny, talented and beautiful,” Murphy added. “I’m heartbroken.”
Absolutely devastated to share the news that my lifelong friend, Dawn Wells, has passed away. She was feisty, funny, talented and beautiful. I’m heartbroken. pic.twitter.com/h3qG88aSOR
— Erin Murphy (@Erin_Murphy) December 30, 2020
“Oh, this so sad. Bon voyage, Mary Ann,” tweeted Jane Lynch.
“Not the obituary I wanted to read today,” said podcast host/columnist Dan Savage.
Contributing: Patrick Ryan, Nick Thomas
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