Florence Henderson, the actress who portrayed matriarch Carol Brady on the Seventies sitcom The Brady Bunch, died Thursday in Los Angeles from heart failure. She was 82.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our dear mother Florence Henderson from heart failure,” the Henderson family said in a statement. “On this day of thanks, our beloved mother was surrounded by her devoted children and dearest friends. We thank all of her fans for their many years of love and ask that we be allowed to grieve in private.”
Henderson’s agent Kayla Pressman added, “Florence was the most vibrant and caring woman I have ever known. She never had an unkind word about anyone. She was a wonderful mother and was so proud of her 4 children and 5 grandchildren.”
Born in Dale, Indiana in 1934, Henderson enrolled in New York’s American Academy of the Dramatic Arts in the early Fifties, leading to roles in stage musicals like Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Fanny and The Girl Who Came to Supper. In 1962, Henderson became the first woman to ever guest host The Tonight Show.
Shortly after filming her big-screen debut in Song of Norway, Henderson was cast as Carol Brady, the widowed “lovely lady” with three daughters who formed a blended family when she married Mike Brady, played by actor Robert Reed, who had three sons.
The Brady Bunch debuted in September 1969 and ran for five seasons before the sitcom’s cancellation in 1974. Although the show didn’t generate huge ratings and critics largely ignored the saccharine sitcom in the turbulent era of Woodstock, counterculture and Richard Nixon, The Brady Bunch became a hit after entering syndication, spawning spinoff series and made-for-TV films that Henderson would always reprise her role for.
Henderson would also appear in the satirical big-screen Nineties reboot of The Brady Bunch in a cameo role as Carol Brady’s grandmother. In the five decades following The Brady Bunch, the ever-present Henderson would pop up as a contestant on game shows ranging from The $100,000 Pyramid, Hollywood Squares and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and would make countless “as herself” TV appearances, including The Surreal Life, 30 Rock, The Muppet Show and WWE Raw.
Recently, Henderson hosted a pair of shows on Retirement Living TV, the Florence Henderson Show and Who’s Cooking With Florence Henderson.
Henderson was last seen on television on Monday, when she made a guest appearance on Dancing With the Stars to support contestant Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch. Henderson herself competed on the celebrity dancing competition in 2010, Variety reports.
You are in my heart forever Florence? pic.twitter.com/PABCuPubA2
— Maureen McCormick (@MoMcCormick7) November 25, 2016