Florence Henderson, who went from Broadway star to become one of America’s most beloved television moms in “The Brady Bunch,” has died, her manager and her publicist said. She was 82.
Henderson died Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, after being hospitalized the day before, 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.
Premiering in 1969, The Brady Bunch 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.
The blonde, 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.
Henderson who was an outpsoken LGBT ally in a 2014 interview said that “If the show (TBB) were on today, I think it would definitely be addressed. After all, their father was gay.’
Not the character of Mike Brady, of course, but the late Robert Reed, the actor who played him.
Reed, who died in 1992, was not out publicly but Henderson always knew he was gay and early in the show’s run defended him to a director who she perceived to be a homophobic bully.
‘I think so many young people have such a difficult time,’ she says. ‘Most of the gay people I know – and I have so many gay and lesbian friends – so many tell me they were disowned and how tough it was for them growing up.
And all of them, they all knew they were gay from the time they were 5 or 6 years old. The kids that have no place to go and the parents don’t get it, don’t understand stand and stop loving them. How can you do that to a child?’
Henderson, also participated in many LGBT benefits and among her last was the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s 45th anniversary gala
‘I do so many benefits for the LGBT community – always have. ‘When AIDS first started, I was one of the first along with Debbie Reynolds to do a benefit – many, many years ago at The Hollywood Bowl. It was not easy to get people. I just think I love people and have great compassion for human beings. Who are we to judge anyone. It always came natural for me to love people”
We love you Florence. Rest peacefully Mrs. Brady.