Frances Sternhagen, the Tony award-winning Broadway actress best known for playing Esther Clavin on the sitcom “Cheers,” has died at the age of 93.
On Wednesday, Sternhagen’s son John Carlin penned a farewell tribute to his mother, sharing that the actress died on Monday.
“Frannie. Mom. Frances Sternhagen. On Monday night, Nov 27, she died peacefully at her home, a month and a half shy of her 94th birthday,” Carlin wrote. “I will post more soon, but for now I just want to give thanks for the remarkable gift of an artist and human being that was Frances Sternhagen. She was beloved by many. I’m very lucky I was able to call her my mom, my friend, my song and dance partner.”
Sternhagen was born on January 13, 1930 in Washington, D.C. Her father was a tax court judge and her mother served as a nurse during World War 1 before becoming a homemaker. Sternhagen’s path to a career in the entertainment arts started when she taught children how to sing, dance and act at the Milton Academy in Massachusetts. She landed her first performance in 1948 at a Bryn Mawr summer theater, starring in “The Glass Menagerie” and “Angel Street.”
“We were together last week, and we spoke Monday afternoon, said how much we loved and missed one another,” Carlin continued. “I was about to board a plane for London when I got the news, and am there now. Set to perform some new songs (one of which was inspired by her) this weekend. She always encouraged my writing, and enjoyed my singing. I’ll fly back very early the next day.”
Sternhagen had both her Broadway and off-Broadway debut in 1955 when she played Miss T. Muse in “The Skin of Our Teeth.” She also starred in “Thieves’ Carnival” that same year. A five-time Tony nominee, she won for Best Supporting Actress for the original Broadway production of Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor” in 1974. Her second win was in 1995 when she performed in the revival of the “The Heiress.” She pivoted to television with a role in “The Great Bank Robbery on Omnibus” on CBS. She is best known for her role as Esther Clavin, the mother of Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger). Her performance resulted in two Emmy Award nominations.
She also received an Emmy nomination in 2002 for her guest role on “Sex and the City” as Bunny MacDougal, the overbearing mother of Charlotte’s (Kristin Davis) first husband Trey (Kyle McLaughlin).
Sterhagen met her husband Thomas A. Carlin in graduate school and got married in 1956. Six children came from their marriage. Carlin died in 1991. Sternhagen is survived by her children Paul, Amanda, Tony, Sarah, Peter and John.
“Fly on, Frannie. The curtain goes down on a life so richly, passionately, humbly and generously lived,” Carlin said, ending his post.