Maggie Peterson, 'The Andy Griffith Show' Actress, Dead at 81

Maggie Peterson, who had a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show as Charlene Darling, died Sunday. She was 81. Peterson's family shared the sad news on Facebook, writing that her health took a turn for the worse after her husband, jazz musician Gus Mancuso, died in December. Peterson died peacefully in her sleep.

"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," Peterson's family wrote on Monday. "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."

Peterson's family said she wanted her fans to know they reminded her she was not alone, even as she lived far from her family in Las Vegas during her last months. "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," her family wrote.

They also thanked Peterson's fans from "the bottom of our hearts" and for their "inspiring" generosity. "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," the statement concluded. "Thank you and God bless."

After Mancusco's death from Alzheimer's Disease, Peterson's family established a GoFundMe account to help her with expenses. Fans donated over $47,000 before the fund was disabled. The Andy Griffith Museum also showed support for Peterson's family on Monday. "We will miss you, Maggie," the museum staff wrote.


Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greely, Colorado, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She joined her brother and two of his friends for a musical act that caught the attention of Griffith's manager in New York. This led to spots on variety shows and they recorded an album. In 1963, she made her Andy Griffith Show debut with a memorable performance of "Salty Dog." She would star in four more episodes through 1966 and played another character in a 1968 episode during the final season. Peterson played Charlene in the 1986 movie Return to Mayberry.

Peterson also worked with Andy Griffith again in Angel in My Pocket and joined Don Knotts in The Love God?, both of which hit theaters in 1969. Her other TV credits include The Bill Dana Show, Green Acres, Gomer Pyle: The Odd Couple, and Love, American Style. She retired from acting in the late 1980s and joined the Nevada Film Commission. In the 1990s, she served as location manager for Casino, Mars Attacks!, Perdita Durango, and Go