Charlotte Rae, Mrs Garrett in ’80s Sitcom ‘The Facts of Life,’ Dies at 92

Rae was diagnosed with bone cancer in April 2017

Last Updated: August 5, 2018 @ 8:49 PM

Charlotte Rae, best known as the lovable house mother Mrs. Edna Garrett on the ’80s sitcom “The Facts of Life,” has died following a battle with cancer. She was 92.

Last April, Rae announced she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer seven years earlier, saying in a statement at the time it was “a miracle that they found it because usually, it’s too late. My mother, sister, and my uncle died of pancreatic cancer.”

After six months of chemotherapy, she said she was cancer-free. But in 2017, doctors found cancer in her bones.

“I lost my hair, but I had beautiful wigs. Nobody ever knew. So now, at the age of 91, I have to make up my mind,” she wrote. “I’m not in any pain right now. I’m feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground. Now I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again or opt for life.”

Rae concluded, “I love life. I’ve had a wonderful one already … I’ve had a great life, but I have so many wonderful things happening. I’d like to choose life. I’m grateful for the life I’ve already had.”

Born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Russian-Jewish immigrants, she found love of the arts at a young age, doing radio work and stage shows with a children’s theater company.

She went on to attend Northwestern University, where she became friends with other future stars like Charlton Heston, Cloris Leachman and Paul Lynde of “Hollywood Squares” fame.

After performing in nightclubs in New York City and appearing in productions of “Three Wishes for Jamie,” “The Threepenny Opera” and “Li’l Abner,” Rae earned two Tony awards nominations for her featured work in the musical “Pickwick” and her leading role in the 1969 play “Morning, Noon and Night.”

Although Rae made her television debut in 1954 in the anthology series “Look Up and Live,” her first recurring role was in the sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?” in the early ’60s. A decade later, she was nominated for an Emmy for her supporting role in the 1975 drama “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.”

Then, after appearing in the Norman Lear comedy “Hot L Baltimore,” the prolific producer hired her to play housekeeper Edna Garrett in the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.” A year later, NBC approved its spinoff, “The Facts of Life,” in which Rae’s Mrs. Garrett would go from housekeeper to house mother of a group of girls in a prestigious private school. She left the series in 1986, early in its eighth season.

In recent years, Rae appeared on “The King of Queens,” “ER,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Girl Meets World.”