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‘Facts of Life’ star Charlotte Rae dies at 92

Charlotte Rae (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Charlotte Rae (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Charlotte Rae, who played a wise and patient housemother to a brood of teenage girls on the long-running sitcom “The Facts of Life” during a career that encompassed many other TV roles as well as stage and film appearances, has died. She was 92.

Rae died at her Los Angeles home Sunday with her family at her side, said her publicist, Harlan Boll. A cause of death was not immediately available, but Rae was diagnosed last year with bone cancer after beating pancreatic cancer, Boll said.

She originated the character of Mrs. Garrett in 1978 during the first season of NBC’s comedy “Diff’rent Strokes,” then took Mrs. Garrett with her for the spinoff “Facts,” which premiered the following season.

Initially set at a girls’ boarding school, that NBC series ran for nine seasons. Rae left after its seventh year, however, explaining later, “I needed some time for the rest of my life.”

The “Facts” role came to Rae after years of theater and television performances. She earned an Emmy nomination for the part, and she was a two-time Tony nominee for her work on Broadway.

Her last feature film credit was “Ricki and the Flash” with Meryl Streep in 2015. That same year she released her autobiography “The Facts of My Life,” co-written by her son Larry Strauss.

Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields, who played members of Mrs. Garrett’s brood, recalled her lovingly.

“She was my champion, a teacher, a proud example of the tenacity and perseverance needed to live as a creative, along with your talent and gifts. i love you char,” Cohn, who played Natalie, posted on Instagram.

“Sorry, no words at the moment just love and tears… and yeah, smiles,” tweeted Fields, who portrayed Tootie.

Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald tweeted: “She was so sweet, funny, wise, lovely, and brilliant. She will be so missed. Rest In Peace Sweet Charlotte Rae.”

Todd Bridges, who was on “Diff’rent Strokes,” said on Twitter that she was beloved by all her colleagues and that the show “would not have been the same without you.”

Edna Garrett provided kind if sometimes wry counsel to her “Facts of Life” charges (which, besides Cohn and Fields, included Lisa Whelchel, Nancy McKeon and Molly Ringwald) on a series that was praised for dealing with such sensitive issues of teenhood as sex, drug use, eating disorders and peer pressure.

“I wanted to bring in as much humanity as possible, as well as the humor,” Rae told The Associated Press early in the show’s run. “I don’t want her to be Polly Perfect, because she must have human failings and make mistakes.”

Her own life was marked by tragedy, Rae told the AP in a 2015 interview. She said the “most devastating thing” she faced was her son Andy Strauss’ diagnosis of autism at a time when there was far less understanding of or attention to the disorder. Andy died in his mid-40s of a heart attack in 1999.

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