Jillian Kesner-Graver, Welles historian, dies


Jillian Kesner-Graver, who played Fonzie's girlfriend Lorraine on "Happy Days" and with her late husband, director-cinematographer Gary Graver, worked to preserve the legacy of Hollywood legend Orson Welles, has died. She was 58.

Kesner-Graver, who lived in Rancho Mirage, had leukemia but died unexpectedly Dec. 5 at an Irvine hospital of a staph infection, family friend Joseph McBride said Thursday.

Her husband, who died last year, had worked on many movies with Welles.

"She organized his tours around the world to show and discuss Welles' many late works, some of which are still unfinished," said McBride, who is an assistant professor of cinema at San Francisco State University.

Most recently, Kesner-Graver had been helping piece together footage her husband shot in the 1970s for Welles' unfinished feature "The Other Side of the Wind." The couple had hoped to complete and eventually release it.

Kesner-Graver also was a production coordinator for many of her husband's movies.

In addition to her "Happy Days" role, Kesner-Graver appeared in a number of low-budget films, including "Starhops," "Raw Force," "Jaded" and "Firecracker," playing a martial arts fighter in the latter. She appeared on TV in "The Rockford Files," "Mork & Mindy," "Three's Company" and other shows.

She used the name Jillian Kesner in her film and TV roles.

She "had a fond following among B-movie action fans," McBride said. "She really enjoyed that. She was beautiful and very athletic."

Kesner-Graver was born in Norfolk, Va., but her father was a Navy officer and the family moved around the country. She spent much of her youth in Denver, moving to Los Angeles in 1969 where she modeled before getting into movies and television.

She met Graver when they worked on the 1976 movie "The Student Body."

Her survivors include her mother, Patricia Kesner of Laguna Woods; sisters Connie Minyard of Irvine and Cindy Messina of Benicia, and two stepsons.