Valerie Harper, a legendary television actress who rose to prominence with roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, died Friday after a long battle with cancer. She was 80.
“My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06 a.m., after years of fighting cancer,” Harper’s husband Tony Cacciotti said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
The award-winning actress won a place in fans’ hearts playing Rhoda Morgenstern in the 1970s on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her own spinoff, Rhoda. She took home four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her work in the two sitcoms.
Harper also starred in the 1980s comedy Valerie, but left the show amid a contract dispute. More recently, she had roles on The Office, 2 Broke Girls and The Simpsons, and in 2013 appeared on Dancing with the Stars. She also had roles in films and theater.
Harper was active in the Screen Actors Guild, and unsuccessfully ran for SAG president in 2001, before the union merged with AFTRA.
The actress was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. Then in 2013, she announced she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare brain cancer. Her doctors said at the time that she only had a few months to live.
After years of health struggles, Harper’s husband started a GoFundMe campaign on July 8, 2019, to help with the TV legend’s soaring medical costs.
“Valerie is currently taking a multitude of medications and chemotherapy drugs as well as going through extreme physical and painful challenges now with around the clock, 24/7 care immediately needed, which is not covered by insurance,” said a message on the campaign page. “This is just part of the daily cost that is without a doubt a financial burden that could never be met alone. This GoFundMe initiative from Tony, is to ensure she receives the best care possible.”
Harper was born in Suffern, New York on August 22, 1939. She had just turned 80.