Maggie Peterson, ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Actress, Dies at 81

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Maggie Peterson, an actress who played Charlene Darling on the show “The Andy Griffith”, has passed away. She was 81.

The Andy Griffith Museum took to social media on Monday and confirmed the star’s passing.

“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Maggie Peterson Mancuso,” the statement said. “Maggie will be forever remembered by Mayberry Fans as Charlene Darling on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. She brought so much joy to her fans and to our Mayberry Days® Festival. We will miss you Maggie.”

From left: Andy Griffith, Goldie Hawn, Don Knotts and Maggie Peterson, circa 1967.
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

A relative also wrote on Peterson’s page that she “passed away peacefully in the presence of her family.”

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“It is with great sadness that we report that our dear Aunt Maggie passed away yesterday afternoon (Sunday, May 15),” their statement said. “She passed away peacefully in her sleep in the presence of her family.”

“Maggie’s health deteriorated after the death of her husband Gus and we are relieved that we were able to move her home to be close to family for her final days,” the family member said. “We are planning a private service for Maggie in the coming weeks. While this fundraiser no longer accepts donations, we will keep it open for a few more weeks to communicate with this community.”

“Maggie wanted this community to know how much you meant to her over the past three years,” the statement continued. “Despite being in Las Vegas and far away from her family, your love and dedication helped her not to feel alone. She often told us how generous you all were. You really made a positive impact on her life and helped her through some very difficult times.

“Finally, Maggie’s family would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your care and generosity were inspiring and we couldn’t have done any of this without you. We hope you can find comfort during this difficult time in knowing how important you were for making the end of Maggie’s life much better. Thank you and God bless.”

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Despite leading a decades-long career in Hollywood, Peterson is best known for playing the only daughter of the Darling family, a musical family of “mountain people” from North Carolina. While she had her sights set on Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith), she eventually married “Dud” Wash (Hoke Howell).

Charlene Darling and the rest of the Darling family were featured in episodes from 1963 to 1966. Some well-known songs that Peterson borrowed included “Salty Dog” and “There Is a Time.”

Peterson has appeared on other hit TV shows, including “Green Acres,” “Love, American Style,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” She also appeared in the movie “The Love God?” from 1969. starring Don Knotts, known as Deputy Barney Fife on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. The sitcom aired from 1960 to 1968.

Peterson was a frequent guest at the annual Mayberry Days Festival in Mount Airy, North Carolina. According to IMDB, she went on to appear in films including 1995’s “Casino” and “Mars Attacks!” from 1996.

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She and Gus Mancuso, a respected Las Vegas musician, married in 1978. They remained together until his death in December 2021 at the age of 88 from Alzheimer’s disease.

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