Florence Henderson, who played beloved “The Brady Bunch” matriarch Carol Brady in the 1969-74 ABC sitcom, plus the countless spin-offs, died Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of heart failure. She was 82 and was recently seen rooting for her TV daughter Maureen McCormick on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Born on February 14, 1934 in Dale, Indiana, Florence Agnes Henderson was the youngest of 10 children. She began her career on the stage, performing in musicals, such as the touring production of “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center. She debuted on Broadway in the musical “Wish You Were Here” in 1952, and later starred on Broadway in the long-running 1954 musical, “Fanny.” In 1962, Henderson became the first woman to guest host NBC’s “The Tonight Show” after Jack Paar left and before Johnny Carson began, and she joined NBC’s “Today” show as “The Today Girl,” where she reported on weather and news. But it was “The Brady Bunch,” of course, that tale of a blended TV family, that solidifies her place in the halls of TV history.
In addition to “The Brady Bunch,” Henderson was front and center in spin-odds “The Brady Bunch Hour” in 1977, “The Brady Brides” in 1981 and “The Bradys” in 1990, the latter which was a result of now iconic made-for TV movie “A Very Brady Christmas” in 1988.
After “The Brady Bunch” ended its original run, Henderson traveled the guest route with appearances in TV series like “Hart to Hart,” “Fantasy Island,” “Alice” and “The Love Boat,” which she set sail on for 10 episodes. In 1985 she began a nine season stint hosting “Country Kitchen” on former cable network TNN, and was a spokesperson for Wesson Oil from 1976 to 1996. In later years, she appeared on series like “Roseanne,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Ellen,” “Ally McBeal” and “Happily Divorced;” and competed on “Dancing With the Stars.” And she was a fixture on the Retirement Living network in talker “The Florence Henderson Show” and “What’s Cooking with Florence Henderson.”
Henderson is survived by her four children — Barbara, Lizzie, Joseph, and Robert — with her first husband Ira Bernstein, to whom she was married from 1955 to 1985. She married hypnotherapist John Kappas in 1987, who passed in 2002.
Rest in peace, you truly “lovely lady.”