2016 has been marked by a series of heartbreaking deaths of iconic pop-culture figures – including, popular musicians like Prince, David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister, beloved film actors like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder, and TV stars like Patty Duke and Doris Roberts (plus many more too numerous to name in full). These losses have brought an outpouring of grief, but also memories from fans who have followed their life and work.
Now, the soon-to-end year has brought another loss. Florence Henderson has died at 82 of apparent heart failure. A child song and dance prodigy born in 1934 to working-class parents, Henderson gained early fame as a stage actress in musicals and dance productions; at one point, being best known for originating the title role in the classic Broadway hit Fanny in 1954. A gifted comedian, she appeared in hosting and presentation roles on myriad TV programs, becoming the first woman to guest host Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
She is best remembered, however, for her role as Carol Brady on the 1970s TV sit-com The Brady Bunch. The series at the time was framed as a highly atypical portrait of a blended family: Henderson’s Carol was a widow raising three daughters who married a suburban widower with three boys of his own in roughly-corresponding ages. While popular enough in its day, the series has since became a cult classic in syndication, with Henderson in particular often being referred to as one of television’s most beloved mother figures.
Following the end of The Brady Bunch in 1974, her acting and appearance choices largely took the form of one-off roles, guest spots as herself, parodies of her best-known persona and revivals of the Carol Brady character in the short-lived Brady Bunch Hour variety series, TV movies The Brady Girls Get Married and A Very Brady Christmas and two attempted revivals in Brady Brides and The Bradys. In 1995, she appeared as the mother of Shelly Long’s new Carol in The Brady Bunch Movie. Her most recent film appearance was a satirical turn as “Mrs. Robinson” in the Wayans Brothers parody Fifty Shades of Black.
A devout Irish Catholic, Henderson spent much of her later life working to securing funding for Sisters of St. Benedict, an order of Catholic nuns in her hometown of Ferdinand Indiana, whose members had contributed to her education in early childhood. Many of her most recent public appearances as a celebrity game show and reality TV contestant were geared in the direction of funding this charitable enterprise.
R.I.P. Florence Agnes Henderson: February 14th, 1934 – November 24th, 2016
Source: New York Times