Thursday, September 15, 2011

Henry Winkler, the Fonz in Happy Days, Honoured with UK OBE

Henry Winkler, who played the Fonz in the classic US sitcom Happy Days, has been appointed an honorary OBE for his educational work on dyslexia in the UK.

Winkler received the honour at the British embassy in Washington DC.

The actor-turned-children's author, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, said he was "overwhelmed" to have his work recognised.

In the past two years, he has toured schools in the UK, talking about the learning disability.

Winkler told BBC Breakfast he was delighted with the "unexpected" honour.

"I got a letter from the Queen saying she graciously agreed to confer on me the OBE," he said.

He is the author of the Hank Zipzer children's book series, which features a young dyslexic protagonist.
Undated file photo of the cast of the television series, Happy Days Winkler shot to fame playing Arthur Fonzarelli (centre) in Happy Days

Zipzer's adventures are based on Winkler's own childhood struggles with school and the resulting bullying.

The author said visiting UK schools was "one of his favourite things to do".

"I walk into the room and ask if anybody has trouble in school and maybe one or two people raise their hands. By the time I've read to them from Hank Zipzer... everybody wants to be dyslexic.

"We say our goodbyes just hugging. It's very touching."

British ambassador Nigel Sheinwald presented the OBE to Winkler during the ceremony at the embassy.

Mr Sheinwald said: "Through [Winkler], thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning challenges."

Winkler shot to fame playing Arthur Fonzarelli - a leather-jacket clad, motorcycle-riding, ladies' man, who was the epitome of "cool" - in Happy Days, which ran over a decade from 1974.

The Queen makes honorary awards to non-British citizens on the advice of the UK Foreign Office. It is not clear whether she is a fan of the Fonz.

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