Just one week after her 80th birthday comes word that beloved four-time Emmy Award winning actress Valerie Harper has lost her battle with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition where cancer cells spread to the membranes surrounding the brain. Harper, who was in poor health since her lung cancer diagnosis in 2009, bravely revealed she was given as little as three months to live back in 2013 following this diagnosis.
Harper’s health was back in the headlines last month when her family launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her rising medical costs.
Born on August 22, 1939 in Suffern, New York, Harper began her career as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway, and went on to perform in several Broadway shows (including “Wildcat” with Lucille Ball, “Take Me Along” opposite Jackie Gleason, and “Subways Are For Sleeping”). Her roommate at the time, actress Arlene Golonka (“Mayberry R.F.D.”), introduced her to Second City improvisation theater where she met her first husband Richard Schaal.
Harper and Schaal moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and co-wrote an episode of romantic anthology series “Love, American Style.” Two years later, Harper rose to immediate fame as the comical but insecure Rhoda Morgenstern on CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. After four seasons (and three Emmy Award wins for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series), Harper segued into spin-off “Rhoda” in the fall of 1974 as was upgraded to an Emmy win for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series in that first season.
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