Maggie Peterson, actress on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ dead at 81

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Maggie Peterson, an actress who played Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith” show, has died. 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 read. “Maggie will forever be 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 family member also wrote on Peterson’s page that she “passed peacefully with her family present.”

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“It is with great sorrow that we report that our dear Aunt Maggie died yesterday afternoon (Sunday, May 15),” their statement read. “She passed peacefully in her sleep with her family present.”

“Maggie’s health took a turn for the worse 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 last days,” the relative shared. “We will be planning a private service for Maggie in the next few weeks. Although this fundraiser will no longer be accepting donations, we will keep it open for a few more weeks in order 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 away from her family, your love and devotion helped her to not feel alone. She made many mentions to us about how she couldn’t believe how generous you all were. You truly made a positive impact on her life and helped her during some very difficult times.

“Finally, Maggie’s family would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your caring and generosity was inspiring and we could not of done any of this without you. We hope that during this difficult time you can find solace 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 North Carolina “mountain people.” 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 appeared in episodes from 1963 until 1966. Some well-known tracks Peterson lent her vocals to included “Salty Dog” and “There Is a Time.”

Peterson appeared in other popular TV shows including “Green Acres,” “Love, American Style,” “The Odd Couple” and “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” among others. She also appeared in the 1969 film “The Love God?” with Don Knotts, known as Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” The sitcom aired from 1960 until 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 1996’s “Mars Attacks!”

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

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