Happy Days star Tom Bosley dies at 83

Beloved TV dad Tom Bosley of the American 1950s TV sitcom ‘Happy Days’ has died after a battle with lung cancer and a staph infection.

Bosley, who celebrated his 83rd birthday earlier this month, played hardware salesman Howard Cunningham in what was one of network ABC’s most popular series at the time.

Henry Winckler, who played the popular character Fonzie, told E! News: “We were a make-believe family for 10 years, and like a real family for over 30. He will be so, so missed.”

Kind words have been pouring in from stars of the hit sitcom since news of Bosley’s death was made public: “Tom’s insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the Happy Days experience,” says Howard, who played Richie Cunningham on the sitcom.

“A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it,” Tom Bosley’s on-screen son adds. “My last conversations with Tom reflected the love of life and peace of mind that he always maintained throughout his full and rewarding life.”

Known mostly for his TV and theater performances, Bosley also found some success in film, most recently appearing in the 2010 comedy ‘The Back-up Plan’ alongside Jennifer Lopez.

A rep told TMZ that instead of flowers the family would appreciate donations made to the American Cancer Society.

Other celebrities who have died of cancer include Ingrid BergmanFarrah FawcettPatrick Swayze and George Harrison.

Images: PR Photos, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Days