BRENTWOOD—Local TV icon Henry Winkler, who starred on the hit series “Happy Days,” has been honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. Winkler was born in Manhattan, N.Y., so his honor is not only rare, it’s almost unheard heard of. However, the handsome star has been working for years to help educate and mentor children, so his work across the Atlantic Ocean caught the attention of Britain’s most revered and beloved royal.
From birth, Winkler was thought to be special. His Jewish parents were immigrants from Europe, who arrived in 1939 and luckily avoided the Holocaust. Six years later, the Winklers welcomed a baby boy into the world, and from that moment on, Henry Winkler was destined for greatness. The prolific actor has worked for the past four decades nonstop, but it was the role of Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, which he debuted on the “Laverne & Shirley” show, then as the lead role in “Happy Days” a few years later that catapulted Henry into superstardom.
Henry Winkler has recently been made an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The OBE, was presented to Winkler by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, British Ambassador to the United States at a ceremony yesterday at the British Embassy in Washington. He received the award in recognition of his services to children with dyslexia and other special educational needs.
Winkler made multiple trips to the UK during the last two years educating school children, educators, parents and policy makers alike about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. He was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 31, and he has also authored 17 books for children about Hank Zipzer, a young boy with dyslexia. The adventures are based on his own childhood struggles with school and the resulting bullying.
“I am pleased to award this honor on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen,” said Ambassador Sheinwald. “Improving the lives of children is one of the highest acts of good one can pursue, and Mr. Winkler has certainly done that. Through him, thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning difficulties. Henry Winkler is living proof that difficulties can be overcome and that for those suffering challenges and self-doubt, happy days can nevertheless lie ahead.”
The UK honors system recognizes exceptional achievement and service to the nation, and includes non-British nationals who receive honorary awards for their important contribution to British interests. All British honors are awarded on merit, and honorary awards are conferred by HM The Queen on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917.
After receiving the OBE medal, Winkler was told he can now put Honorary OBE after his name.
“Receiving this honor is a very humbling experience,” Winkler told Canyon News on Wednesday. “My goal when I started working with children was to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle. I am overwhelmed to have had my work recognized in this manner, and hope to continue showing children that no matter how they learn, they have brilliance in them.”
Henry Winkler is humbled by this honor, and the Brentwood resident is still working diligently in the U.S. and around the world to bring attention to the important issue of learning disabilities in children. Most recently, Winkler starred in the TV series “Children’s Hospital,” and he has completed two film projects, “Running Mate” and “Here Comes the Boom,” and the TV series “Hillers” is currently in production.
Photographs of the Investiture Ceremony are Courtesy: Zanyasan Tanantpapat