LOS ANGELES -- Florence Henderson, who went from Broadway star to become one of America's most beloved television moms in The Brady Bunch, has died. She was 82.
Henderson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday night, a day after she was hospitalized, said her publicist, David Brokaw. Henderson had suffered heart failure, her manager, Kayla Pressman, said in a statement.
Family and friends had surrounded Henderson's hospital bedside, Pressman said.
On the surface, The Brady Bunch with Henderson as its ever-cheerful matriarch Carol Brady resembled just another TV sitcom about a family living in suburban America and getting into a different wacky situation each week.
But well after it ended its initial run in 1974, the show resonated with audiences, and it returned to television in various forms again and again, including The Brady Bunch Hour in 1977, The Brady Brides in 1981 and The Bradys in 1990. It was also seen endlessly in reruns.
"It represents what people always wanted: a loving family. It's such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there's always an audience for that," Henderson said in 1999.
Premiering in 1969, it also was among the first shows to introduce to television the blended family. As its theme song reminded viewers each week, Henderson's Carol was a single mother raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed's Mike Brady, a single father who was raising three boys.
The eight of them became The Brady Bunch, with a quirky housekeeper, played by Ann B. Davis, thrown into the mix.
Mourners flooded social media with memories of Henderson.
Maureen McCormick, who played the eldest Brady daughter, Marcia, tweeted, "You are in my heart forever Florence." Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron tweeted, "Heartbroken. I'll miss you, my friend." Henderson's last public appearance was Monday at the Dancing With The Stars taping where she was in the audience to support McCormick, who competed this season.
The blond, ever-smiling Henderson was already a Broadway star when the show began, having originated the title role in the musical Fanny. But after The Brady Bunch, she would always be known to fans as Carol Brady.
"We had to have security guards with us. Fans were hanging on our doors. We couldn't go out by ourselves. We were like the Beatles!" she said of the attention the cast received from the show.
Florence Agnes Henderson was born Feb. 14, 1934, in the small town of Dale in southern Indiana. She was the 10th child of a tobacco sharecropper of Irish descent. After high school she moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school.
Henderson was a 19-year-old drama student in New York when she dropped out of the program because she landed a one-line role in the play Wish You Were Here.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were so impressed that they made her the female lead in a 1952 road tour of Oklahoma! To broaden her career, Henderson took acting, dancing, singing and guitar lessons, even studying French and Italian.
She went on to play Maria in a road production of The Sound of Music; Nellie Forbush in a revival of South Pacific; and returned to Broadway with Jose Ferrer in The Girl Who Came to Supper in 1963.
She made her movie debut in 1970 in Song of Norway.
As her TV career blossomed with The Brady Bunch, Henderson also began to make frequent TV guest appearances. She was the first woman to host The Tonight Show for the vacationing Johnny Carson.
For eight years she also commuted to Nashville to conduct a cooking and talk series, Country Kitchen, on The Nashville Network. The show resulted in a book, Florence Henderson's Short Cut Cooking.
In later years she also made guest appearances on such shows as Roseanne, Ally McBeal and The King of Queens.
Henderson married theater executive Ira Bernstein, and the couple had four children before the union ended in divorce after 29 years.
Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002.
Pressman said Henderson is survived by her children, Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their spouses and five grandchildren.
A Section on 11/26/2016
Print Headline: Henderson, Brady Bunch mom, dies at 82