Entertainment

Florence Henderson: Far More Than ‘Brady’ Mom

Singer, Broadway star, fundraiser for the Sisters of St. Benedict, and more, she created the type of mother 'everyone longs for'

The year 2016 has claimed the life of another Hollywood icon. Florence Henderson, best known as television mom Carol Brady on the sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” passed away this Thanksgiving weekend from heart failure. The passing was unexpected, as Henderson was still very much in the public eye and was just spotted on “Dancing with the Stars” to cheer on her former fictional daughter, Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady.

“We are all in a state of shock,” said Henderson’s manager, Kayla Pressman, according to CNN. Henderson was 82 and died surrounded by family and friends.

“It was a true honor to have known and worked with her.”

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Born in Indiana in 1934 as the youngest of 10 children, Henderson learned to sing early in life and used her talents to entertain her family and help them to make ends meet. She later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Her early career included musicals like “Oklahoma!” and 1952’s “Wish You Were Here.” She would go on to guest on shows like “I, Spy” and headline commercials for Oldsmobile. She also became the first woman to guest host “The Tonight Show” before Johnny Carson infamously took the late night gig over.

It was from 1969 to 1974 that she portrayed Carol Brady in a show about the marriage of two widowed people and the blending of their large families.

Florence Henderson never left the public eye after the show, appearing on unscripted programs like “The Surreal Life” and “My Fair Brady.”

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She was a contestant on the 11th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010 and even appeared on a special Mother’s Day episode of “The Price is Right,” displaying prizes in 2012.

In 2013, Henderson hosted her own cooking show, “Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson” for Retirement Living TV (RLTV).

One of America’s favorite moms had four kids of her own and was a public benefactor for the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana. Having been taught by many of the nuns there early in life, Henderson went on to help with fundraising efforts, even winning $32,000 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in the name of the monastery.

Barry Williams, who played the eldest son Gary on “Brady Bunch,” told CNN Friday that Florence Henderson was as warm and giving as her public persona suggested. “She was very gracious, always. She was an inspiration with how to conduct yourself in public as a famous person. She was so kind and would always take time. I want to remind people that — and there are many many of us who will miss her —  that she was a genuine person.”

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Fellow “Brady Bunch” star Maureen McCormick, who had just been photographed with Henderson at a “Dancing with the Stars” taping days before, tweeted, “Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years.”

“Stars” host Tom Bergeron posted a picture of himself with Henderson to Twitter, commenting with, “Heartbroken. I’ll miss you, my friend. #RIP”

Weird Al Yankovic also tweeted about Henderson’s passing, as the two worked together on his music video, “Amish Paradise”: “So terribly sad to hear of the passing of the great Florence Henderson. It was a true honor to have known and worked with her.”

A faithful woman who rose from the depths of poverty to Hollywood success, Henderson will always be remembered as a warm soul who promoted giving and created one of America’s ideal mothers.

Of her TV character Carol Brady, Henderson once said, “I created the kind of mother that I wished I’d had, and I think everyone longs for.”

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