Tom Bosley

Tom Bosley, who played the gruff but lovable Mr. C on Happy Days, and whose stable demeanor made him one of TV's ultimate father figures, has died. He was 83.

Bosley had been battling lung cancer but died of heart failure at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., early Tuesday, his agent, Sheryl Abrams,
told TVGuide.com.

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Bosley's Happy Days character, Howard Cunningham, was constantly distracted from life's simple pleasures — his couch, meetings of the Leopard Club, chats with his wife, Marion  — by problems and misunderstandings almost always brought on by his kids. He was a surrogate father to everyone in the Happy Days gang, including Arthur "Fonz" Fonzarelli, who dubbed him "Mr. C" out of respect.

"I'm so saddened by the loss of our wonderful Tom Bosley. Remarkable on so many levels, Tom's insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the Happy Days experience. A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom lead by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it," Bosley's TV son, Ron Howard, said in a statement. "I miss him already."

He followed Happy Days by playing another reassuring character, Murder She Wrote's Sheriff Amos Tupper, and then with another fatherly turn as a crime-solving priest on Father Dowling Mysteries. (Unlike his very Catholic character, Bosley was Jewish.)

Watch an interview with Tom Bosley

His death came just three days after the death of another iconic TV parent, Leave it to Beaver mom Barbara Billingsley. Since both shows were set in the 1950s and '60s, both stars came to be equated with nostalgia for a supposedly simpler time.

Happy Days lasted from 1974 to 1984 and spawned a slew of spin-offs: Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi. Its influence is obvious on countless sitcoms, most notably That ' 70s Show, another nostalgic Wisconsin-based sitcom.

"Tom was a family member, both on and off the sound stage. We acted together, traveled together and played charades together," Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler said in a statement. "He was a loving husband, a doting father and a fantastic grandfather. He will be so missed but never forgotten by the Winkler family or the world."

Bosley's aura of stability made him not only a perfect dad, but also an ideal pitchman. His ads for Glad Trash Bags were a perfect mix of product and celebrity endorser: Trash bags need to be reliable, and who was more reliable than Mr. C?

Bosley, born Oct. 1, 1927, had his big breakthrough playing New York mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia in the long-running Broadway musical Fiorello!, for which he won a Tony in 1960.

TV Guide Network will air The Cast of Happy Days: Where Are They Now on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET/PT.