Jillian Kesner-Graver was born on 9 August 1949 to a United States Navy officer in the town of Portsmouth, Virginia. She and her family moved to Denver, Colorado where she would spend most of her childhood. She earned a degree in business in 1967 from a Colorado university. A couple of years after that she moved west, to Los Angeles, where she did some modeling before starting a career as an actress for television and films.
She got her film debut in the 1976 movie Student Body in which she played the role of Carrie, a juvenile delinquent with a fiery personality. It was while filming this picture that she meant her future husband, Gary Graver, the noted cinematographer. She would go act in a number of movies and make some appearances in television shows such as “Co-ed Fever”, “The Rockford Files” and “Three’s Company”. The part she is perhaps best known for is that of the Fonz’s girlfriend, Lorraine on the show “Happy Days”. She would continue acting through 1997 raking up 23 acting credits on the Internet Movie Database. She appeared in such films as Starhops, as the kooky yet intelligent Angel, Firecracker where she took on the role of the tough sexy instructor at a karate school and Roots of Evil taking up the role of Brenda, a detective who is tracking down a serial killer. She built up quite a following of fans of B-films. Jillian did some behind the camera work as well, filling the role of production manager on a films. Many of these production manager roles where working on films that her husband had a hand in.
When Jillian wasn’t acting or otherwise working on a production she would work with her husband on his passion project. Gary worked with Orson Welles on a number of projects, some say that he was more devoted to the director than to his wife. His work for Welles often went unpaid, though during one day of filming Welles’ unfinished movie The Other Side of the Wind the director handed Gary his Oscar from Citizen Kane. Gary also had tried his hand at directing a number of films, including Roots of Evil in which he was able to direct his wife.
Gary and Jillian worked together on preserving Welles’ work. Often she would plan and arrange for his worldwide tours where he would discuss the movies of the well-known director. Gary passed away in 2006 after a lengthy battle with cancer, but Jillian continued on. She was working on putting together film that he had shot in hopes of completing Orson Welles’ unfinished work. During all of this time Jillian was battling leukemia. She eventually passed away in 2007 on the 5th of December about a year after her husband, dying somewhat unexpectedly of a staph infection while in a hospital in Irvine, California. She was 58 at the time of her passing.
Jillian is survived by her mother, Patricia Kesner, her sisters, Connie and Cindy, and her two stepsons.