Since Henry Winkler became a household name as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in the 1970s American sitcom “Happy Days,” the actor has expanded his resumé as an activist, producer/director, and author of a popular book series for kids with a focus on inclusivity.
On Oct. 30, 2019, Winkler had something brand-new to celebrate: his 74th birthday.
The beloved actor was flooded with birthday well-wishes on his special day. He took to Twitter to thank fans for their kind words:
“Thank you for all my wonderful birthday wishes. They truly make for a Happy Day!”
Winkler has had to traverse some less-than-happy days to get to where he is today, however.
Ayyyyyyy! It's The Fonz's birthday! Henry Winkler turns 70 today!
A Champion for Children
Henry Winkler’s parents were immigrants from war-torn, Nazi-occupied Germany, and life was hard. As a child, Winkler struggled with school work. He only learned retroactively that he was suffering from dyslexia, a common learning difficulty that can have a serious effect on reading and writing skills.
The education system that Winkler grew up in was not sympathetic to his struggles in the classroom, and it was this struggle that prompted the well-known actor to use his fame for a new cause: raising awareness for dyslexia.
In recent years, Winkler has become a vocal advocate for children with dyslexia via his Hank Zipzer series of books, following the life and times of a fourth-grader named Hank who has the disorder.
Winkler and writer Lin Oliver produce the books collaboratively, and Winkler remains humbled by the process to this day. “I am amazed that I am a member of a team with Lin Oliver writing books in the first place,” Winkler admitted to the OWN Show. “Remember, what I excelled at in school, really, was going home.”
Winkler was 31 before he read his first book, but he made it to the Yale School of Drama after delivering an impressive, improvised, Shakespeare-style monologue that showcased his innate talent. It paved the way for his journey into acting.
— Metro (@MetroUK) October 31, 2015
Winning Hearts Across Generations
At just 27, Winkler was cast as Fonzie in “Happy Days.” “The role of The Fonz was the foundation on which I built the rest of my life,” Winkler told CBS Sunday Morning back in 2017. “He built the house I live in.”
Battling with typecasting, however, Winkler took an elective step back from acting and moved into directing and producing for several years, to widespread critical acclaim.
Decades later, and after a triumphant return to the small screen, Winkler has won over a whole new generation with roles in the comedies “Arrested Development” and “Royal Pains.”
As for family life, Winkler has been married to his wife, Stacey Weitzman, since May 5, 1978. Together, they have a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren.
“I love being a grandparent,” Winkler told Closer Weekly. “I thoroughly enjoy myself; we spoil them with love.
“My wife and I babysat our four-year-old grandson, who is allowed to watch one show before he goes to bed. He has Happy Days on his DVR. He turned to me and said, ‘That’s you! Your hair was different. You were skinnier then.’”
Finding time to step away from the bustle of family life, writing, and directorial duties, Winkler also enjoys the free time of his autumn years with the peaceful pastime of fishing.
“The place of it, the sound of it, the green of it, and what happens when you’re fishing, you cannot concentrate on anything else,” Winkler waxed lyrical, speaking to CBS. Winkler has even written a book on fly-fishing titled “I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, besides the occasional trip to the lake with his fishing rod, Winkler shared his philosophy for a long and happy life with HuffPost. “I live by two words,” he said. “Tenacity and gratitude.
“Tenacity gets me where I want to go, and gratitude doesn’t allow me to be angry along the way. I really love that I’m on this earth, and that is the truth.”