Happy days: Actress Marion Ross returns to Albert Lea for unveiling of statue in her honor

Updated: July 3, 8:30 a.m.

For a generation of viewers, she was America's favorite TV mom.

Actress Marion Ross
Actress Marion Ross attends a gala on Nov. 13, 2019 in Los Angeles. Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on "Happy Days" amid a long Hollywood career, is back in her hometown of Albert Lea, Minnesota, for the unveiling of a statue in her honor on Friday.
Rachel Luna | Getty Images 2019

And now Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham — "Mrs. C" — on "Happy Days" amid a long Hollywood career, is back in her hometown of Albert Lea, Minn., this week for the unveiling of a statue in her honor.

"Well, I'm so impressed! I'm so impressed that the hometown wants to bother with me," Ross, 92, said in an interview with MPR News. "I think it's just really extraordinary because I want everybody in the world to know about Albert Lea, Minnesota. It's a small town, but it's a wonderful place to have grown up and gone to school!"

The life-size bronze sculpture of Ross was unveiled Friday evening outside the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center in downtown Albert Lea — at the corner of Broadway and Marion Ross Street.

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Organizers raised money for the statue with community fundraisers, including selling personalized brick pavers. There was a national search for a sculptor to create the statue, with organizers selecting Pennsylvania artist Chad Fisher.

"He came to my house, and he took pictures of me. So, the sculpture looks quite a bit like me. You would be surprised. And I'm sitting on a bench … and people can come and sit next to me. It's extraordinary," Ross said.

Ross was born in Watertown, Minn., and her family lived in Waconia and Willmar before moving to Albert Lea. The new statue is not far from Fountain Lake, which features in many of Ross' favorite hometown memories.

"We were in that water all the time, since we were junior lifeguards. We were only like 12 or 13 years old, worked in the bathhouse, rented out bathing suits — little woolen bathing suits," Ross recalled, laughing. "Oh, my God! It was a great, a great childhood."

Ross also recalled saving a dog from drowning after it fell the lake in one winter; she was featured in the local paper and says that early attention could be seen as the start of her career in the public spotlight. She moved to the Twin Cities later in her teens, then to California.

Ross said she's proud to return to Albert Lea, seeing friends and family once again.

"All the wonderful people, that's what is here. Wonderful people, that have remained my friends all these years," she said.

Ross is also set to be the grand marshal of the city's Third of July Parade on Saturday evening.