Dawn Wells, 'Gilligan's Island' Star, Dead at 82

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CBS/Dawn Wells Archives

Dawn Wells, the actress best known for her role as Mary Ann on the beloved 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island, died on Wednesday at age 82 of causes related to COVID-19, ET can confirm.

Born in Reno, Nevada, the actress got her start in show business representing her home state in the 1959 Miss America pageant. Soon after, she began appearing on shows like Maverick, Bonanza, and 77 Sunset Strip, before landing her big breakout role on Gilligan's Island, playing the demure but beautiful castaway Mary Ann.

Throughout her storied career, Wells starred in 150 TV shows, seven motion pictures, and more than 60 theatrical productions, and was an actress, producer, author, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, humanitarian, spokesperson, and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation -- focusing on women and children in Northern Nevada.

Wells also published a book, A Guide to Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?, in honor of Gilligan's Island's 50th anniversary in 2014, writing about the meaning of the Mary Ann character and the cultural shifts that have occurred since she was on the island. Her death leaves co-star Tina Louise, who played Ginger, as the sole surviving cast member of the beloved show.

Following the news of Wells' death, famous friends and fans took to social media to pay tribute to the actress whom many grew up watching and loving.

"It was such a thrill for me to meet Dawn Wells when she came to see Two and a Half Men," Jon Cryer shared. "She could not have been more lovely and gracious. I’m so grateful that I got to enjoy the work she loved doing."

"Condolences to the family of Dawn Wells. Very sad," William Shatner wrote.

See more tributes below. Wells is survived by her stepsister, Weslee Wells. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno or The Shambala Preserve in Acton, California.

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