• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

'Bonanza' star Michael Landon's plaque creates drama in NJ town

January 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Controversy is brewing in a New Jersey town over a decision to move a plaque honoring "Bonanza" actor Michael Landon.

A bronze plaque was dedicated to the actor, writer, producer and star who died of cancer in 1991 at age 54. The plaque has been moved out of the park, which has enraged fans who frequent a website dedicated to "Little House on the Prairie," and the New Jersey woman who raised the money for the memorial 15 years ago.

Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said the move was intended to make the park safer, and it wasn't a sign of disrespect to Landon, who became best known for the characters he played on TV: Little Joe Cartwright on "Bonanza," Charles Ingalls in "Little House" and Jonathan Smith in "Highway to Heaven."

Abbe Effron, who got the plaque put up in 1997, said the memorial became part of pilgrimages for traveling fans of the actor who spent a career playing sensible, loving, no-nonsense men.

Maley said that during a community cleanup day in November, he decided to move it.

"We decided it was a hazard," he said. "People run through the park at all hours. You can't see it."

The plan was always to find a new home for it, he said. And in the meantime, it was at the town's public works facility. The plaque was then moved to the office of The Retrospect, a weekly newspaper.

The mayor was quoted as saying he had no plans for the plaque and that it could remain as part of a collection of local memorabilia in the paper's office. Maley says that's not accurate.

Now, Maley said, police are investigating how the plaque got from the town's possession to the newspaper's.

Effron said she was deeply upset when she first learned the plaque was moved, but she now ways she believes the mayor when he says it will eventually be returned to its proper home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.