LOS ANGELES — Whether he played a small-town sheriff, a murder-solving priest or the father of 50s teens that made him famous, Tom Bosley was a warm and comforting presence on American TV sets for decades.
Bosley, best known as the often flustered but always fatherly Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days," died Tuesday in Palm Springs. He was 83.
Bosley earned a place as one of the most memorable dads in TV history as the hardware store owner, father to Richie and Joanie Cunningham and landlord to Arthur "Fonzi" Fonzarelli on the long-running sitcom.
Bosley died suffering heart failure at a hospital, his agent Sheryl Abrams said. He was also had lung cancer.
His death brought fond remembrances of the nostalgic ABC show, which ran from 1974 to 1984. On Saturday, TV viewers lost another surrogate parent, Barbara Billingsley, who portrayed June Cleaver in "Leave It To Beaver."
Both shows showcased life in the 1950s _ before Vietnam, Watergate and other tumultuous events of the '60s and '70s.
"Kids were watching their parents grow up, and parents were watching themselves grow up. And that was the key to success of that show," Bosley said in a 2000 interview.
Bosley initially turned down the role.
"I changed my mind because of a scene between Howard Cunningham and Richie," he said in 1986. "The father-son situation was written so movingly, I fell in love with the project."
Viewers did too.