Marion Ross says Albert Lea helped make her a success

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2002

A little bit of the Midwest shows through every time Marion Ross acts.

Ross, at a ceremony in her honor Wednesday at the Freeborn County Historical Museum, spoke on how her youth in Albert Lea created values that have lasted a lifetime. Ross left her handprints and signature in a pad of concrete for display in the museum after reminiscing with residents about her home town.

&uot;My background shows in all my work. I’ve never been the exotic woman,&uot; Ross elaborated. &uot;They always wanted me for the strong, honest, real characters.&uot;

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Living in Albert Lea from age nine through 16, Ross said she developed those characteristics right here, where deep principles are a common trait. She recalled hours spent at the public library reading books and magazines on actors, and at age 13 worrying that she had better start acting soon before she was too old.

Before moving to San Diego with her family at age 17, Ross attended Northside Elementary School and Albert Lea High School, and spent a year taking acting lessons in the Twin Cities.

Ross also modeled herself after the women with strong principles she was surrounded by, particularly her mother. She said evidence of it shows in the story of her first screen test.

Before the test with Paramount studios, Ross was so nervous a cold sore broke out on her face, and she mistakenly cut her bangs too short so they stuck straight up. Despite all that, the studio was impressed enough to give her a contract.

&uot;Afterward this crewman came up to me and shook my hand. He said ‘You should thank your mother.’ It really touched me,&uot; Ross said.

Ross signed with Paramount and played small parts in several movies. She is best known for her role as Mrs. Cunningham in the sitcom &uot;Happy Days,&uot; but recently a young man suggested otherwise.

&uot;I was talking with this young man and he asked me what I thought I was most known for. I, of course, replied ‘Happy Days,’&uot; Ross said. &uot;He told me no, that I was SpongeBob’s grandma.&uot;

Recently Ross has appeared in TV’s &uot;The Drew Carey Show&uot; and &uot;That ’70s Show&uot; she frequently appears in plays, and as the young man said, was the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants’ grandmother for a CD-ROM of the popular children’s cartoon.

But even though her career has taken her on to big things, she has never forgotten her roots in southern Minnesota.

&uot;Everywhere she goes Marion tells people about Albert Lea,&uot; said long-time Ross friend Paul Micheal, who traveled with Ross. &uot;Meeting all of you today, and every other time we have visited, helps me understand why.&uot;