Eddie Mekka, (shown third from the left in the top row) in a 1976 cast photo for "Laverne & Shirley," has died at age 69. Photo courtesy of ABC Television/Wikimedia Commons
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Eddie Mekka, who gained fame in his role as Carmine Ragusa, "The Big Ragu," on Laverne & Shirley, has died at age 69.
Mekka was found dead at his home in Newhall, Calif., on Saturday after neighbors became concerned when they hadn't heard from him in a few days and called police to check on him, according to TMZ.
His brother Warren Mekjian told TMZ he had been recently hospitalized for blood clots and could barely walk.
A cause of death has not been given, according to the actor's official Facebook page, The Hollywood Reporter noted.
Mekka joined the show as Shirley's (Cindy Williams) boyfriend in 1976 and continued in the role throughout the series' eight-season run on ABC.
"My darling Eddie," Williams tweeted.
"I love you dearly. I'll miss you so much. But oh the marvelous memories," Williams added with a link to some clips with him from the show.
Mekka also worked with Williams in a touring production of Grease and with Penny Marshall in A League of Their Own.
"I do a great jitterbug number with Madonna in A League of Their Own," he told The Boston Globe in a 2014 interview. "And on Laverne & Shirley, because I love to sing Tony Bennett, we worked in a recurring bit where, whenever Laverne [Marshall] is mad at Carmine, all he has to do is sing the line from the Tony Bennett song, 'You know I'd go from rags to riches...' and she forgives him."
Mekka was also a Tony award nominee for his role in the 1975 rock opera The Lieutenant, where he made his Broadway debut, and also earned a Drama Desk Award nod for the role.
He also starred as a club manager in Dreamgirls; in TV series 24, ER, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; and in soap operas The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. He also starred in guest roles on hit shows, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Family Matters.
Mekka was born in Worcester, Mass., and and headed the Worcester County Light Opera in his hometown before making his Broadway debut.
Mekka is survived by his one daughter Mia, and wife Yvonne Marie Grace.
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December 31. She was 99 years old. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo