‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Once Answered a Sick Five-Year-Old’s Christmas Wish in Heartfelt Way

by Emily Morgan

The Fonz became an overnight sensation following the premiere of the iconic show “Happy Days.” As a result, girls everywhere pined over Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie during the show’s tenure. Although many tried to capture his heart, there was only one who managed to do so. 

At just three years old, Julia Tomanelli was diagnosed with an eye tumor. Later, when she was five-year-olds, she had completely lost the vision in her left eye. Over the years, she spent her childhood receiving treatments and recovering at New York Hospital. Although she only had one good eye, she used it to watch episodes of her favorite show: “Happy Days.”

In 1975, when her parents asked her what she wanted for Christmas, the little girl only had one thing on her mind. “I want to have Fonzie’s picture and his autograph,” she requested while pointing at the TV, seeing Henry Winkler play his namesake. Although her first request seemed doable, they weren’t so sure when she later asked for him “to talk to me in real life.”

At the time, the little girl was about to undergo what The Daily News called “the most critical two weeks of her life” as she was about to find out if her recent eye surgery was a success. Amid the family’s concern and worry, one day, the family telephone rang. 

Little Girl Gets Christmas Gift of a Lifetime

“A-y-y-y, this is The Fonz,” the voice on the end of the line said. “Fonzie?” the young girl answered. “I think you might be joking, but my name is Julia.”

“No joke, Sweetie Pie,” Henry Winkler responded. “I thought it would be nice for Christmas if we spoke to each other for a little while.” After the initial shock, the two then talked about the autographed black-and-white photo he sent Julia. Winkler also promised to send her one in color, too. 

She told him how much she loved the show and how big of a fan she was of The Fonz. According to her parents, her face was beaming the entirety of the phone call.  Before the two hung up, Henry Winkler made a special request: “Would you do something for me, Sweetie Pie?” he asked. “What?” Julia asked in response.

“Would you give me a kiss?” The Fonz requested. The five-year-old smacked her lips against the receiver, to which the Fonz smacked his lips back. “God bless you, Sweetie Pie,” Winkler said. “You, too,” Julie concluded.

Henry Winkler Reprises the Fonz in Charity Event

Although he ended his time as The Fonz decades ago, Henry Winkler recently reprised the role for a charity event to aid actors in need. He returned for a table read of the 1975 episode “The Motorcycle,” where Fonzie seeks revenge on the person who destroyed his treasured bike. 

Glenn Close will fill the role of Marion Cunningham, initially played by Marion Ross, while John Carroll Lynch will voice her husband Howard, who the late Tom Bosley played.