Actress Dawn Wells, best known for starring as Mary Ann on the classic sitcom Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday in Los Angeles of causes related to COVID-19. She was 82.
Wells was born on Oct. 18, 1938, in Reno, Nevada. She was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959, and competed in the 1960 Miss American pageant. After graduating with a degree in theater arts from the University of Washington, Wells began appearing in guest roles on several popular television shows, including Wagon Train, 77 Sunset Strip, and Bonanza.
She rose to fame playing Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, which ran on CBS from 1964 to 1967 and then lived on for decades in syndication. Mary Ann was the girl next door, and in her 2014 book What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life, Wells wrote that the character “wasn’t just a silly and sweet ingenue. She was bright, fair-minded, and reasonable, and I like to think that’s what I brought to her. She was a little more of a Goody Two-shoes than I am.”
After Gilligan’s Island ended, Wells appeared in dozens of stage plays, and was active in several charitable organizations. She launched Wishing Wells Collections, a group that makes clothes for elderly people with limited mobility, and founded the nonprofit Idaho Film and Television Institute. With Wells’ death, actress Tina Louise is the only surviving member of the core Gilligan’s Island cast.