Maggie Peterson, famous for ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ dies at 81

Maggie Peterson, whose character on “The Andy Griffith Show” developed a memorable infatuation with Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor, has died, her family said Monday. She was 81.

A post to her Facebook page said Peterson died in her sleep on Sunday with her family present. According to the post, Peterson’s health took a turn for the worse when her husband, Gus Mancuso, died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2021 at age 88.

“I loved being part of that great show and the many friends and fans I’ve made because of it,” she said in a social media post in 2020.

In the 1963 episode, Peterson played the role of Charlene Darling, who along with her father and four musical brothers visited Mayberry and crammed themselves into one hotel room as they waited for her fiance to arrive. Sheriff Andy Taylor lets the family spend a night in the courthouse and it’s then that Charlene becomes smitten with the sheriff. It was only when the fiance gets to town that Charlene settles for her first love.

During the next season, the Darlings return to Mayberry to help Charlene find a young boy to become engaged to her new baby. They pick Opie, played by Ron Howard, and the sheriff comes up with a scheme to show the family that his son isn’t the one they want.

Margaret Ann Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greeley, Colorado. According to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database site, she, her brother and two of his friends formed a small group that rode around on a pickup truck singing to people. It was those tours that led to her discovery by director Bob Sweeney and producer Aaron Ruben, who teamed to develop Griffith’s show.

Peterson also has credits for “Casino” (1965), and “Mars Attacks!” (1996), among other appearances.

The family said a private service will be held in the next few weeks.

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