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'Happy Days's' Anson Williams Divorced the Same Woman Twice after Almost Losing His Life in the Early 2000s

Bettina Dizon
Feb 11, 2022
11:35 A.M.
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Anson Williams escaped death twice after nearly losing his life in a car accident and receiving a life-threatening diagnosis. With another chance to live, he filed for divorce from his second wife twice.

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Anson Williams will always be known for bringing Warren "Potsie" Weber to life on the hit television series "Happy Days." While his career brought him a long list of acting credits, he takes pride in being a life-hack instructor since encountering an accident that nearly claimed his life.

He is also a proud father of five and a single man after filing for divorce from his wife, Jackie Gerken, in 2020. It was the second time he divorced Gerken, following their 2019 separation. Here's a look at his near-death experiences and life following the accident.

Anson Williams during his filming for "Happy Days" and Anson Williams with his wife. | Source: Getty Images

Anson Williams during his filming for "Happy Days" and Anson Williams with his wife. | Source: Getty Images

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THE CLOSE CALL

In the early 2000s, Williams was driving when he went off-road and bounced around the California desert. He fell asleep without warning behind the wheel and found himself amidst a nearly-fatal car accident.

It turned out that Williams was suffering from dehydration, causing extreme fatigue and leading to his sudden dozing off. Luckily, he made it out alive – but not everyone can be as lucky as the actor.

Following the incident, the "All American Murder"' star was eager to solve the problem that caused the crash. The Hollywood star reached out to his uncle, Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, a globally utilized technique for resuscitating choking victims.

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Anson Williams attends the 14th annual official Star Trek convention on August 6, 2015 | Photo: Getty Images

Anson Williams attends the 14th annual official Star Trek convention on August 6, 2015 | Photo: Getty Images

SEEKING OUT A REMEDY

Heimlich already had a remedy in hand and readily recommended another life-saving hack. His technique wasn't costly and available to anyone with lemons in their kitchen. Williams explained:

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"He said to cut up lemons, and whenever I felt drowsy, just bite into them. When citric acid and sour combination hits the nerve on your tongue, it creates an immediate adrenaline-reflex-body reaction."

The reaction has the effect of inducing alertness instantly and works on the actor, who has never experienced drowsiness afterward. Deviating slightly from his acting career, the legendary star hopes his experience and learnings can save drivers from risking their lives behind the wheel without knowing it.

 Anson Williams attends Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala Honoring Original "Happy Days" Cast at The Jonathan Club on November 13, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

Anson Williams attends Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala Honoring Original "Happy Days" Cast at The Jonathan Club on November 13, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

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SHARING WITH THE WORLD

Years later, Williams learned that falling asleep while driving was among the biggest causes of car accidents. It was among the most catastrophic incidents alongside improper gun usage and drunk driving. This immediately prompted a calling to save lives, knowing he had the ammunition to prevent such an occurrence.

He filed official court papers citing irreconcilable differences and released a statement noting that he and Gerken had already exhausted all efforts to make their relationship work to no avail.

"I talked to Dr. Heimlich and asked if we can put lemons into spray drops. He said absolutely. It's all about placement, the top of your tongue," he recalled. He and his business partner then developed the prototype of Alert Drops in 2015.

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Anson Williams on "Happy Days," August 1983. | Source: Getty Images

Anson Williams on "Happy Days," August 1983. | Source: Getty Images

ALERT DROPS

Although it took about two years to perfect, the finished product was eventually produced and made available to the market in 2017. Alert Drops has since saved many lives by preventing drivers from drowsiness and falling asleep behind the wheel.

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"It's literally creating a lemon in a spray. You spray that on your tongue when you're feeling drowsy, and you will instantly be alert and awake. Dr. Heimlich passed away in December, but the last few phone calls we had before, he really made me promise that I would get Alert Drops out to the public," Williams said.

Unfortunately, while in the process of developing Alert Drops, Williams was faced with yet another near-death experience. In December 2016, the "Little White Lies" star was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer.

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DIVORCING HIS WIFE

With the help of treatment and surgery, he was able to escape death a second time and live cancer-free. Beating the disease gave the actor a new perspective on life, which was the wake-up call he needed.

Two years later, he made a life-changing decision to divorce his wife. He filed official court papers citing irreconcilable differences and released a statement noting that he and Gerken had already exhausted all efforts to make their relationship work to no avail.

The divorce did not push through as the couple attempted to reconcile yet again. However, in less than a year, Williams filed for divorce for the second time. He requested equal legal and physical custody of their children, Olivia, Gabrielle, and Stella. His other daughter, Hannah, was already an adult at that time.

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Anson Williams and wife Jackie Gerken attend The National Conference of Christians and Jews Gala Honoring Robert Wright on October 16, 1989. | Photo: Getty Images

Anson Williams and wife Jackie Gerken attend The National Conference of Christians and Jews Gala Honoring Robert Wright on October 16, 1989. | Photo: Getty Images

Previously, Williams divorced his first wife, "Happy Days" co-star Lorrie Mahaffey, whom he was married to from 1978 to 1986. Together, they share one child.

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WILLIAMS' CHILDREN

Of Williams' daughters, he previously shared about Hannah's life during an interview with Fox News in 2017. He said, as reported by Page Six:

"Hannah is 27, has a wonderful husband and two kids, and she works for Buzzfeed."

Don Most, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross and Anson Williams attend Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala Honoring Original "Happy Days" Cast on November 13, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

Don Most, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross and Anson Williams attend Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala Honoring Original "Happy Days" Cast on November 13, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

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He also talked about his four other daughters at home, whose ages ranged from 10 to 19 at that time. "Three are black belts," he said. Although it seems none have followed in Williams' footsteps, the actor has left a legacy through his work.

Following his acting career, he became a director, working behind the scenes for hit shows like "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Melrose Place," and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." He also received a Golden Globe nomination during his career.

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