Dawn Wells, one of the most-watched actresses for generations, died Wednesday due to complications from COVID-19. She was 82 years old.
Wells was born Dawn Elberta Wells in Reno, Nevada, on Oct. 18, 1938. One of her original aspirations as a young lady was to become a ballerina, but the actress’ bad knees proved to be a major obstacle, according to her bio on IMDb.
At home, she worked with her mother to grow their own fruits and vegetables, and at school, she was an honor roll student, president of the debate team and the class treasurer.
In 1959, Wells turned to pageantry and won the title of Miss Nevada. She started out at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, to pursue her goal of becoming a doctor, but realized she felt called to the arts instead and ended up getting her degree in theatre from the University of Washington.
Her quality performing arts education no doubt came in handy when she beat out 350 actresses to land the part of Mary Ann Summers in “Gilligan’s Island,” according to USA Today.
The character of Mary Ann would become her most successful and memorable role throughout her acting career. Wells became a favorite across generations in the three-season show that took the world by storm.
Through the vocal admiration from viewers of the show, Wells was made aware of just how much of an influence she had through her portrayal of Mary Ann.
“She pitched in and helped, never complained about anything and helped cook and clean,” Wells told Fox News of her character in 2017. “She was concerned about the other people on the island. No jealousy with Ginger … and she’s very in tune with Gilligan and his mistakes. I think she represents the core of what’s good.
“I’ve had soldiers tell me, ‘I carried your picture in my helmet,'” the actress remembered. “I had families say, ‘The only way we ever got along was when we were watching your show.’ It had an impact that was far more than just 30 minutes.”
While Wells played a variety of characters after “Gilligan’s Island” and appeared in dozens of theatrical productions, her role as Mary Ann Summers was most beloved.
Earlier this year, Wells showed a lot of optimism and hope for what the year would hold.
“At a time when it feels like everything is bad news, the good still outweighs the bad,” she said. “So even in tough times, we can and should be grateful for everything around us.”
“I wake up and I am grateful to have another day. I am grateful to feel a seasonal cool morning through my patio door. I am grateful for those who take the time to say ‘hi’ if to simply show that you matter,” Wells continued.
“I am grateful for my life and career and the comforts it allows me at this time when the world wrestles with new challenges and uncertainties. I am grateful for our resilience as human beings and the God-given talents that lead to innovations for the better good.
“I am grateful and proud to be an American,” the actress said. “When I see Americans go into action to heal, serve and protect, or to lend a hand to a neighbor or community, it makes me proud to be living in America. I don’t want people to be disillusioned by the petty infighting that seems to dominate news cycles.”
RIP Dawn Wells, Mary Ann of “Gilligan’s Island” fame. Wells died today at 82 from covid complications, leaving Tina Louise (Ginger) as the show’s only surviving cast member pic.twitter.com/DqcWKjAx7j
— Brandon Griggs (@GriggsBrandon) December 30, 2020
“RIP Dawn Wells, Mary Ann of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ fame,” senior editor at CNN Digital Brandon Griggs tweeted Wednesday. “Wells died today at 82 from covid complications, leaving Tina Louise (Ginger) as the show’s only surviving cast member.”
“Condolences to the family of Dawn Wells,” William Shatner tweeted. “Very sad.”
According to USA Today, Harlan Boll, her publicist, confirmed that the actress passed away on Wednesday morning, “peacefully … in no pain.”
Her presence, talent and memory will live on as people continue to enjoy “Gilligan’s Island.”
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