Florence Henderson dies aged 82: Beloved actress and TV icon who was The Brady Bunch’s mom passes away on Thanksgiving 

The Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson has died from heart failure late on Thanksgiving Day aged 82.

Henderson, who spent decades in the iconic role of Carol Brady, died surrounded by family and friends at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her manager Kayla Pressman said.

TV’s favorite sitcom mom, the actress was best known for The Brady Bunch which first aired in 1969 and continued in one form or another right up to the 1990s.

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The Brady Bunch's Florence Henderson (pictured in April) died late on Thanksgiving Day aged 82

The Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson (pictured in April) died late on Thanksgiving Day aged 82

Henderson died surrounded by family and friends at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles

Henderson died surrounded by family and friends at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles

‘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.

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.

‘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 show brought the cast.

Like the Beatles, there was even a Saturday morning cartoon version called ‘Brady Kids,’ although Henderson was not in that show.

She and Reed did return, however, for ‘The Brady Bunch Hour, ‘The Brady Brides’ and ‘The Bradys.’ So did most of the original cast.

TV's favorite sitcom mom, the actress was best known for The Brady Bunch (pictured Henderson in the show in 1971)

TV’s favorite sitcom mom, the actress was best known for The Brady Bunch (pictured Henderson in the show in 1971)

Henderson spent decades in the iconic role as Carol Brady. Pictured with her TV family:  top row: Christopher Knight (Peter), Barry Williams (Greg), Ann B. Davis (Alice); middle row: Eve Plumb (Jan), Florence Henderson (Carol), Robert Reed (Mike), Maureen McCormick (Marcia); bottom row: Susan Olsen (Cindy), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) 

Henderson spent decades in the iconic role as Carol Brady. Pictured with her TV family:  top row: Christopher Knight (Peter), Barry Williams (Greg), Ann B. Davis (Alice); middle row: Eve Plumb (Jan), Florence Henderson (Carol), Robert Reed (Mike), Maureen McCormick (Marcia); bottom row: Susan Olsen (Cindy), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) 

Her saucy side: Florence was most known for portraying the wholesome Mrs. Brady on long-running TV series The Brady Bunch (pictured with co-star Robert Reed in 1969)

Her saucy side: Florence was most known for portraying the wholesome Mrs. Brady on long-running TV series The Brady Bunch (pictured with co-star Robert Reed in 1969)

She was also back again in 1995 when a new cast was assembled for ‘The Brady Bunch Movie,’ a playful spoof of the original show.

This time she was Grandma Brady opposite Shelly Long’s Carol. Numerous memoirs also kept interest in the show alive, as cast members revealed they were more than just siblings off camera. Barry Williams, who played eldest son Greg Brady, would confess to having a crush on his TV stepmom. Henderson, in her own book, denied having any relationship with Williams, but did acknowledge a fling with former New York City mayor John Lindsay.

Henderson was a 19-year-old drama student in New York when she landed a one-line role in the play ‘Wish You Were Here.’

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were so impressed they made her the female lead in a 1952 road tour of ‘Oklahoma!’ When the show returned to Broadway for a revival in 1954, she continued in the role and won rave reviews.

‘She is the real thing, right of of a butter churn somewhere,’ wrote Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune.

To broaden her career, Henderson took acting, dancing, singing and guitar lessons, even studying French and Italian.

Florence Henderson as Carol Brady and Robert Reed as Mike Brady in the Brady Brunch episode, "Getting Davy Jones'

Florence Henderson as Carol Brady and Robert Reed as Mike Brady in the Brady Brunch episode, ‘Getting Davy Jones’

Henderson went on to appear in every episode of all five seasons of the show, and reprised her character for spin-off such as he Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, The Bradys and The Brady Bunch Movie
Henderson went on to appear in every episode of all five seasons of the show, and reprised her character for spin-off such as he Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, The Bradys and The Brady Bunch Movie

Henderson (pictured in the 1970s, left and right) went on to appear in every episode of all five seasons of the show, and reprised her character for spin-off such as he Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, The Bradys and The Brady Bunch Movie

She went on to play Maria in a road production of ‘The Sound of Music,’ was Nellie Forbush in a revival of ‘South Pacific’ and was back on Broadway with Jose Ferrer in ‘The Girl Who Came to Supper’ in 1963.

She made her movie debut in 1970 in ‘Song of Norway,’ based on the 1944 operetta with music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Her career nearly came to an end in 1965 when she suddenly lost her hearing while appearing in ‘The King and I’ in Los Angeles. She was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called osteosclerosis.

‘Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,’ she said in 2007.

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.’

After ‘The Brady Bunch’ ended its first run, Henderson alternated her appearances in revivals of the show with guest appearances on other programs, including ‘Hart to Hart,’ ”Fantasy Island’ and ‘The Love Boat.’

In later years she also made guest appearances on such shows as ‘Roseanne, ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘The King of Queens.’

The youngest of ten children, Henderson was born in 1934 in Dale, Indiana to tobacco sharecropper Joseph Henderson and his wife Elizabeth.

In grade school, she joined the choir at a Catholic church in Rockport, Ind.

Henderson married Ira Bernstein (pictured together) in January 1956, and the couple had four children whom she would fly back to New York from Los Angeles every weekend during Brady Bunch filming to be with

Henderson married Ira Bernstein (pictured together) in January 1956, and the couple had four children whom she would fly back to New York from Los Angeles every weekend during Brady Bunch filming to be with

Florence Henderson is pictured with ex husband Ira Bernstein attending the 41st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 1989

Florence Henderson is pictured with ex husband Ira Bernstein attending the 41st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 1989

Two years after divorcing Bernstein, she married Dr. John George Kappas (pictured together)  a hypnotherapist she met while battling depression in the mid-1980s 

Two years after divorcing Bernstein, she married Dr. John George Kappas (pictured together)  a hypnotherapist she met while battling depression in the mid-1980s 

The star poses for a portrait session at home with make up in circa 1990 in Los Angeles, California

The star poses for a portrait session at home with make up in circa 1990 in Los Angeles, California

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.

She dropped out of the program after one year, however, to take the role in ‘Wish You Were There.’ 

She began her acting career in Broadway in shows such as Wish You Were Here (1952), Fanny (1954) and The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963) before landing her role in the Brady Bunch. 

Henderson went on to appear in every episode of all five seasons of the show, and reprised her character for spin-off such as he Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, The Bradys and The Brady Bunch Movie.

She also hosted several long-running cooking and variety shows over the years including The Florence Henderson Show, and Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson.

Most recently, she returned to Dancing With The Stars in September for a Brady Bunch reunion with her TV daughter Maureen McCormick. 

She had previously been a contestant on the show in 2010. 

American actress Florence Henderson, circa 1965, passed away surrounded by friends and family on Thanksgiving Day

American actress Florence Henderson, circa 1965, passed away surrounded by friends and family on Thanksgiving Day

Henderson was known for playing wholesome characters. But in reality, the actress admitted that she'd had a few 'friends with benefits' over the years
Henderson was known for playing wholesome characters. But in reality, the actress admitted that she'd had a few 'friends with benefits' over the years

Henderson was known for playing wholesome characters. But in reality, the actress admitted that she’d had a few ‘friends with benefits’ over the years (left in 2007, and right, on the runway at the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2016 in February, in New York City

The sequence saw the 82-year-old reprise her iconic role as the Brady matriarch Carol for a routine with McCormick and her partner Artem Chigvintsev. 

Wearing a dress redolent of her character, stood with her hands at her hips and rolled her eyes. She repeated Carol Brady’s famous exasperated line: ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!’ and the dancers were off.

Henderson was known for playing wholesome characters. 

But in reality, the actress admitted that she’d had a few ‘friends with benefits’ over the years. 

She told The New York Post in February: ‘I may have more than one friend with benefits.’

She continued: ‘It’s very healthy for the heart. I think no matter how old you are – and I am pretty up there in terms of numbers – I think you should do whatever makes you happy.’

‘If you want to wear long hair or wear that dress, as long as you’re not hurting yourself or anybody else, I say do it,’ the famous TV mom said, adding: ‘If you want to go out and have a romantic, sexy affair, do it.’

Actress Florence Henderson appeared on  'Dancing With The Stars' in 2010 with dance partner Corky Ballas

Actress Florence Henderson appeared on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ in 2010 with dance partner Corky Ballas

Most recently, she returned to Dancing With The Stars in September for a Brady Bunch reunion with her TV daughter Maureen McCormick 

Most recently, she returned to Dancing With The Stars in September for a Brady Bunch reunion with her TV daughter Maureen McCormick 

Henderson married Ira Bernstein in January 1956, and the couple had four children whom she would fly back to New York from Los Angeles every weekend during Brady Bunch filming to be with.

But she was very candid in her autobiography, Life Is Not A Stage, about her affairs. 

She even claimed to have slept with then-New York City Mayor, John Lindsay, who she said gave her crabs.

After almost 29 years of marriage, Henderson divorced Bernstein in 1985. 

Two years later, she married Dr. John George Kappas, a hypnotherapist she met while battling depression in the mid-1980s. He also inspired the actress to take up hypnotherapy and Henderson became a certified hypnotherapist.

The pair remained happily married until Kappas’ death in 2002.

She is survived by her children; Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their respective spouses, and five grandchildren.