Florence Henderson, one of America’s most iconic TV moms, has died. She was 82.
Her publicist confirmed that she died of heart failure at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the New York Times.
Henderson played the wholesome, always cheerful Carol Brady in the 1970s show, The Brady Bunch, which ran from September 1969 to March 1974, but has continued to air in endless reruns and multiple film remakes. The show, a comedy, featured a single mother with three girls who met, married and moved into a suburban California home with a widowed father and his three boys.
Prior to the Brady Bunch, Henderson amassed an impressive resume of stage credits, starring in “Fannie” and “Oklahoma” on Broadway and road productions of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music.” She was also the first female guest host for Johnny Carson’s “The Today Show” and acted as host and co-producer on the cooking and talk series, “Country Kitchen,” on The Nashville Network. In 1965, she unexpectedly lost her hearing while appearing in “The King and I” in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press, and was diagnosed with a condition linked to heredity.
“Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,” she said in 2007.
In a July 2015 episode of NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell me,” the show’s host Peter Sagal, asked Henderson what it was like to raise her own four young children while starring as Carol Brady.
“My youngest when we started was like, oh, gosh, 2 or a little less,” she responded. “And sometimes my kids would say to me, you know, how come you don’t scream at those kids on television like you do us?… I said because they’re not my real kids, and you are. And I want you to turn out to be wonderful human beings. And they have. I have four of the most incredible children, and I have five grandchildren.”
Florence Agnes Henderson was born February 14, 1934 in Dale, Indiana, the 10th child of a sharecropper.
She sang in school and in a nearby Catholic church choir, and after high school, enrolled in a program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, “her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school,” according to the AP.
She later married and had four children with theater executive Ira Bernstein. The two were divorced 29 years later in 1985. Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002.
When asked how she would like to be remembered in a 1999 Archive of American Television interview, Henderson answered, according to the New York Times, “Probably as someone who survived for a long time in a very tough business and, hopefully, managed to retain a sense of humanity.”
She is survived by two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth; two sons, Joseph and Robert; and five grandchildren.