Beloved actress Valerie Harper, who won fans’ laughter through her role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later their sympathy with her multiple bouts with cancer, has died.
She was 80.
“My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer,” her husband, Tony Cacciotti, said in a message posted on Facebook.”She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest in Peace, mia Valeria.”
The actress will be best remembered as the funny, brash Rhoda Morgenstern, who was a perfect complement to the innocent, perpetually cheerful lead character of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1970 to 1977. Harper’s sidekick character was so popular, it was spun off into “Rhoda,” which ran from 1974 to 1978.
She also had a successful 32-show run on NBC’s “Valerie” in 1986-87.
The venerable actress had four Emmy statutes on her mantle — three for best supporting actress in a comedy for “Mary Tyler Moore” in 1971, 1972 and 1973; and then for best lead actress in a comedy for “Rhoda” in 1975. Harper was nominated four other times.
In recent years, she’s been one of America’s most well-known cancer survivors, battling lung cancer since 2009 and brain cancer since 2013.
Cacciotti announced on Facebook last month that he had decided not to move his wife into hospice care despite recommendations from doctors.
“I have been told by doctors to put Val in Hospice care and I can’t [because of our 40 years of shared commitment to each other] and I won’t because of the amazing good deeds she has graced us with while she’s been here on earth,” he wrote in a post.
“We will continue going forward as long as the powers above allow us, I will do my very best in making Val as comfortable as possible.”
Despite her many health battles, Harper remained in the public spotlight, doing her best to bring more awareness to cancer research. She competed on Season 17 of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014.
“I was supposed to be gone before last Easter,” she cheerfully told “Today” in April 2014. “What I have is un-curable and terminal, but guess what — not today!
Just after her brain cancer diagnosis became public, Harper told fans that health scares were a reminder to forget about what-ifs and focus on the what’s-nexts of life.
“Forgiving is giving up the wish that things could have been different. They weren’t. That’s the past. Let it go. I have cancer,” Harper told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie.
“It’s in my brain … What are you gonna do about it?” Harper said. “I’ve had such a great run, Savannah. I’m going on 74. I want people to be less afraid. You know, that’s … that’s really I guess why I’m sharing it.”