Charlotte Rae, the character actress best known for her roles in “Diff’rent Strokes” and its spinoff, “The Facts of Life,” has died at age 92.
Rae’s representative confirmed the news Sunday, saying she died surrounded by family and friends at her Los Angeles home.
The actress’ career spanned six decades. She first charmed audiences as housekeeper Edna Garrett on the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” before spinning off the role into a new sitcom, “The Facts of Life,” which made her a star. She was a two-time nominee for both the Tony and Emmy Awards.
Rae had survived a bout with pancreatic cancer in 2009, having caught the disease early following the deaths of her mother, uncle and sister to the disease. She announced to People magazine in April 2017 that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer.
Born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky on April 22, 1926, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rae attended Northwestern University, where she met many future stars, including Agnes Nixon, Charlton Heston, Paul Lynde, and Cloris Leachman, who would become a good friend.
In 1948, she dropped out of college and moved to New York City, where she found work as a singer and stage actress. She made her television debut in 1954, guest-starring on a number of shows before landing a role in 1979 on “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Many of her former costars shared their memories of the actress on social media following her death, including “Diff’rent Strokes” star Todd Bridges and “Facts of Life” star Kim Fields.
After starring in “The Facts of Life” from 1979 to 1986, she left the show to return to the stage. But she continued to appear on television, in guest spots on “St. Elsewhere,” “The King of Queens” and “ER.”
She married composer John Strauss in 1951, and the couple had two sons, Larry and Andrew. As she wrote in her 2015 memoir, “The Facts of My Life,” co-written with her son Larry, she struggled with alcoholism when her husband came out as bisexual and revealed he had been cheating on her with other men. The couple divorced in 1976 but remained friends, and she supported him through his long battle with Parkinson’s disease, which ended with his death in 2011.
Rae also wrote about the grief of losing her son Andy, who had autism and epilepsy and died of a heart attack in his mid-40s.