An official Facebook account for Mekka announced the news on Thursday morning. No cause of death was given, except that he “passed away peacefully.”
Cindy Williams, who played Shirley on the beloved sitcom, described Mekka as a “world-class talent” in a tweet that included a clip from the show.
— Cindy Williams (@Cindy_Williams1) December 2, 2021
Another “Laverne & Shirley” actor, Michael McKean, also paid tribute to his co-star.
A sad goodbye to Eddie Mekka this morning. A genuinely good guy and purveyor of cheer whenever things got cheerless. Value these people. RIP, Eddie.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) December 2, 2021
Ragusa was the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Williams’ Shirley Feeney. Nicknamed “The Big Ragoo” on the show, he was a part-time boxer who owned a dance studio, and dreamed of becoming a dancer and singer. In the finale, he auditions for “Hair” on Broadway, fulfilling his lifelong goal.
Mekka appeared in 150 episodes of the hit sitcom that ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983. During its run, “Laverne & Shirley” was the most-watched show on TV from 1977-1979, reaching a high of 23 million households in the U.S.
Born in Worcester, Mass., on June 14, 1952, he worked at the Worcester County Light Opera and taught singing. Before moving to Los Angeles, he earned a Tony nomination in 1975 for his lead role in “The Lieutenant” on Broadway. “Laverne & Shirley” was his first major role and he was also featured on the series “Blansky’s Beauties.” Both shows were created by Garry Marshall as spinoffs of “Happy Days,” in which Mekka appeared on twice as Ragusa.
Mekka kept working steadily from the 1970s through the 2010s. Some of his other credits include “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Family Matters,” “Guiding Light,” “24,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” and two “Laverne & Shirley” TV specials.