Florence Henderson, famous for playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, died of heart failure on Thanksgiving night at the age of 82. In the 1970’s sitcom, Florence as Mrs. Brady would warmly give wise and sensible advice to her TV children, thus earning her the title of “America’s Mom.” The Brady Bunch played for five seasons, and continued for decades with reruns in America as well as 122 countries around the globe. Henderson’s portrayal of a widow with three daughters who marries a widower with three sons, represented the first blended family in television history. The Brady husband and wife also represented the first couple to sleep in the same bed before TV audiences.

Henderson was born on Valentine’s Day, the youngest of ten children, in Indiana. But unlike her iconic role as Carol Brady, her own mother left the family when Florence was just ten years old. Indeed, Florence grew up in poverty with her father working as a tobacco sharecropper. During an interview on CNN, Henderson once revealed that to play Mrs. Brady, she created the kind of mother she wished she’d had.

Henderson started acting at the age of 17, and debuted on Broadway the following year. She went on to perform in Broadway hits like Fanny and The Girl Who Came to Supper before landing the role of NBC’s first Today girl in 1959 broadcasting the weather, fashion topics, and the lighter aspects of the news. In 1962, Henderson was the first woman to guesthost The Tonight Show before Johnny Carson took the lead.

Just last year, Matt Lauer interviewed Henderson who revealed that she felt younger than she did at the age of 30. The star beamed as she said, “I try to get up every day and say, ‘Wow, it’s a great day, and I’m alive. I have four healthy children, five healthy grandchildren, I have granddogs. I have friends. I am so blessed to be able to still do what I love–I work all the time, and I’m just grateful!”

Upon hearing the sad news of Henderson’s passing, Maureen McCormick who played the role of Marcia Brady tweeted, “Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my <3 forever. Love & hugs to her family. I’ll miss u dearly.”

“Weird Al” Yankovic, who worked with Henderson on the music video Amish Paradise, tweeted, “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.”

In fact, Florence Henderson’s impressive resume was quite long and varied. Besides starring in Broadway hits and being ranked among the top one hundred Greatest TV Icons according to Entertainment Weekly, Henderson has worked as a talk show host, a cooking show host, she authored the book Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond, and worked as a certified hypnotherapist. Additionally, Henderson was a commercial spokeswoman for brands like Oldsmobile, Wesson oil, and Polident. And at the age of 76, she even competed on Dancing with the Stars!

Her later film works include The Grandmothers Murder Club  about “Four older women who kill people–but they deserve it!” Henderson said. And she appeared in the parody Fifty Shades of Black with Marlon Wayans.

The advice she often gave to kids was: “Keep a cool head and keep a warm heart. And always remember those who helped you on the way up.”

Rest in peace, Florence Henderson.

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