‘Happy Days’ Actor Gavan O’Herlihy’s Death Prompts Touching Tribute From ‘Tombstone’ Star Dana Delaney

by Lauren Boisvert

Gavan O’Herlihy played Chuck Cunningham for 7 episodes on “Happy Days,” brother to Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham. According to O’Herlihy’s brother, Cormac, Gavan died on Sept. 15 in Bath, England. No cause of death has been released. O’Herlihy was 70-years-old.

O’Herlihy had a guest role on an episode of “China Beach,” and co-star Dana Delany reached out on Twitter to share her condolences and a memory of the late actor. She shared a photo of the two from the episode; Delany played Army nurse Colleen McMurphy, who’s stationed at an evacuation hospital and USO Center during the Vietnam war.

Delany captioned the screengrab, “Very sorry to hear of Gavan O’Herlihy’s death. He was my Everglades lover in one of our strangest China Beach episodes, Juice. I loved his Irish face.”

O’Herlihy played the character Noon Gantry, an animal wrangler who lives in the Everglades who Colleen McMurphy meets. In the episode, titled “Juice,” Dr. Dick Richard runs into McMurphy again in Miami where she works at an orange juice plant. He introduces her to his fiancée, Colleen Flaherty; but feelings arise for Dr. Richard when he sees McMurphy again, even though McMurphy has long moved on from their relationship.

Noon Gantry accompanies the group on their escapades, and it surprised to learn that McMurphy is a Vietnam veteran. She later apologizes for hiding that from him, but also says it won’t work between them; McMurphy is still unsure if she’s over her time in Vietnam or completely over Dr. Richard.

Gavan O’Herlihy’s Career

Along with a guest role on “China Beach,” Gavan O’Herlihy had over 30 acting credits to his name. He is known for playing Airk Thaughbaer in the Ron Howard movie “Willow.” He also played Brad Wilson in “Superman III,” Captain Jack Petachi in “Never Say Never Again,” and Marshal Sharpe in “The Last Outlaw.”

Many know him as Chuck Cunningham from “Happy Days.” He played Chuck for 7 episodes before the character was recast. In a 2007 interview, O’Herlihy said the character was “too dry” to keep him interested, and he left “Happy Days” in the first season. In another interview, he stated, “they had me at college; I was going to grunt and bounce a basketball once every couple of weeks for probably three or four years.”

O’Herlihy didn’t want to feel tied down to the role, and wanted bigger projects. Among many others, he also had a role as Dan Suggs on the epic western series “Lonesome Dove.”

His most recent credit before his death is the film “Queen of the Redwood Mountains,” slated to release this year. He plays the lead role of writer John Anderson in the film based on the Beat Poet Generation.