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Actress Jillian Kesner-Graver dies

Actress, widow, collaborator

Jillian Kesner-Graver, actress and widow and collaborator of cinematographer Gary Graver, died Dec. 5 in Irvine, Calif. of complications of a staph infection, which she contracted after having been diagnosed with leukemia. She was 58.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Jan. 19, from 4-6 p.m., at the American Cinematheque Egyptian Theater.

Arriving in Los Angeles from Colorado in 1969, she worked as a print model before breaking into show business as a Bob Hope “Star of Tomorrow” and playing Fonzie’s girlfriend on “Happy Days.” She also appeared on TV in “Three’s Company,” “Mork and Mindy,” “The Blue Knight” “T.J. Hooker” and “The Rockford Files.”

Kesner had a following among action fans due to her starring role in Cirio Santiago’s 1981 kick boxing feature “Firecracker.” Among her other credits were “Starhops,” “Moon in Scorpio,” “Jaded,” “Trick or Treats” and “The Student Body”; she was particularly proud of the latter as it was the film the two men watch at the Texas drive-in in “The Thin Blue Line.”

She worked closely with her husband in connection with his work as Orson Welles’ longtime cinematographer and in recent years traveled the world with him presenting programs devoted to Welles’ later, often unfinished work. Since Graver’s death one year ago, she had continued to run his equipment and film operations.

She is survived by her mother, two sisters and two stepsons.

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