Valerie Harper, known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Rhoda, has died after a six-year-long battle with cancer. The actress was 80. She was known to audiences as TV’s Rhoda Morgenstern, who was first introduced as Mary Richards’ outspoken best friend on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Harper went on to excel in the role, winning four Emmys, including one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy Series. After Rhoda’s five season run, she would go on to star in a new sitcom called Valerie. Harper is survived by her husband, Tony Cacciotti, and her daughter, Cris Cacciotti.
My dad has asked me to pass on this message: “My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer.
She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. -Anthony.”
— Cris (@cristicacci) August 30, 2019
Harper was diagnosed with a terminal condition called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in 2013. A rare form of brain cancer, the condition was serious enough for doctors to give her three to six months to live at the time. Instead, she was able to continue to live an active life for more than six years. In September of 2013, with her cancer in remission just months after her diagnosis, she parlayed a doctor’s recommendation to exercise into a spot on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. In a 2015 interview with People Magazine, she detailed her philosophy in the face of her condition, stating, “We don’t know what’s around the corner. I think you just take each day and get the best out of it and do what you can and have fun.”
Harper acted continuously throughout her life, featuring as a voice actor in TBS’s American Dad! as recently as 2019. Other recent roles include a recurring part on The Simpsons, as well as guest roles on 2 Broke Girls, Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, and Desperate Housewives. A veteran of Broadway, Harper returned to the stage in 2010 for the comedy Looped, earning a Tony nomination for her performance. She also appeared in Melrose Place, Sex and the City, and That 70’s Show over the course of her career.