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Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on 'Gilligan's Island,' dies of COVID-19

Dawn Wells .jpg
Posted at 12:53 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 17:21:19-05

LOS ANGELES — Actress Dawn Wells, best known for her role as castaway Mary Ann on television's "Gilligan's Island," has died of COVID-19 at the age of 82.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Wells died peacefully Wednesday at a living facility in Los Angeles.

"There is so much more to Dawn Wells" than the "Gilligan's Island" character that brought her fame, Boll said in a statement.

Before becoming an actress, Wells was named Miss Nevada in 1959.

According to Deadline, Wells beat out 350 other actresses for the Gilligan's Island role that saw her star as one of the passengers on a supposed three-hour boat tour that ended up shipwrecked on a deserted island.

The show aired for three seasons on CBS, but became a major hit in syndication.

Tina Louise, 86, who played Ginger the movie star, is the last surviving member of a cast that included Bob Denver as the title character; Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as wealthy passengers Thurston and Lovey Howell, and Russell Johnson, known as the Professor.

"I will always remember her kindness to me," Louise said in a statement. "We shared in creating a cultural landmark that has continued to bring comfort and smiles to people during this difficult time. I hope that people will remember her the way that I do - always with a smile on her face."

In 2013, she was honored by for her work with a Tennessee-based refuge, The Elephant Sanctuary.

To mark the 50th anniversary of "Gilligan's Island," Dawn wrote "A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?" with observations about her character and the cultural changes that took place while she was stranded.

Two years ago, a friend launched a GoFundMe drive to help cover medical and other costs for Wells, although she protested she didn't need the assistance. She did end up acknowledging her need and accepted more than $180,000 in donations.

"Wow! I am amazed at the kindness and affection I have received" in response to the fundraising drive, Wells said in a social media post at the time. She said a "dear friend" undertook it after a frank coversation.

She recounted musing to him, "'Where did the time go? I don't know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids and no money.'"

Wells appeared in other shows such as Baywatch, Maverick, Columbo and Bonanza. She also performed on Broadway in a variety of roles.

The Associated Press contributed content to his report