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Beloved Character Actress Passed Away At 92

Charlotte Rae, the redheaded comedian beloved as the good-natured housemother Mrs. Garrett on TV’s “Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” has died at 92.

Rae’s spokesman Harlan Boll told USA TODAY that Rae died Sunday at her Los Angeles home, surrounded by family. A cause of death was not immediately provided.

The actress announced last year that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer after being treated previously for pancreatic cancer.

“After six months of chemotherapy, I was cancer-free. I lost my hair, but I had beautiful wigs. Nobody ever knew,” she told People in April 2017. “So now … I have to make up my mind. I’m not in any pain right now. I’m feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground. Now I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again or opt for life.”

The actress was born in Milwaukee on April 22, 1926, the daughter of Jewish Russian immigrants, and was part of Northwestern University’s theater scene. She started her 60-year career in stand-up comedy and went on to work in television, appearing on “The Phil Silvers Show” and “Car 54, Where Are You?”
Rae landed the role of Edna Garrett in 1978 on NBC’s “Diff’rent Strokes” and carried the part over to the spinoff “Facts of Life,” set at a girls’ boarding school. She received an Emmy Award nomination as best actress in a comedy in 1982.

More recently, she appeared on TV’s “ER,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Girl Meets World,” and her last role came in 2015, opposite Meryl Streep in the movie “Ricki and the Flash.”
Rae wrote a 2015 memoir, “The Facts of My Life,” in which she recounted husband John Strauss’ disclosure that he was bisexual and described how she dealt with the death of her son Andy, who had autism and epilepsy.

She remained single after her marriage ended, but “I have wonderful friends,” she told The Associated Press in 2015. “I’m not just a lonely old lady.”
Late last week, Entertainment Weekly and Deadline both reported that a reboot of “The Facts of Life” is in the early stages of development at Sony Pictures TV.

As news of her death spread, her famous friends grieved along with her fans.

“She was so sweet, funny, wise, lovely, and brilliant,” Broadway star Audra McDonald tweeted. “She will be so missed.”
Rae’s “Diff’rent Strokes” co-star Todd Bridges tweeted that the show “would not have been the same without you … ‘My heart is full of Pain’ Rest in peace my friend.”
Comedian Larry Wilmore revealed his “first tv gig a millennium of moons ago was on The Facts of Life,” and shared footage of an episode he appeared in. Reflecting on Rae, Wilmore added: “She was just the best and nicest lady.”
Stand-up Kathy Griffin wished for the actress to “Rest In Peace.”
Actress Holly Robinson Peete posted a photo of Rae with her mom. “Love this recent pic of my mom and Charlotte Rae…” the “21 Jump Street” star said in a tweet, which described Rae as “a beautiful woman who lived a robust and amazing life.”