Inga Swenson, Emmy- and Tony-Nominated ‘Benson’ Actress, Dies at 90

She played German cook Gretchen Kraus on the ABC sitcom

Inga Swenson
Inga Swenson at Peoples Choice Awards, circa 1980. (Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Inga Swenson, who was nominated for three Emmys for her role as German cook Gretchen Kraus on the 1980s ABC sitcom “Benson,” has died at age 90.

The character Gretchen originated on the ’70s series “Soap,” as did Benson, the character played by Robert Guillaume, who headlined the eponymous spin-off.

Swenson died Sunday night of natural causes in Los Angeles at a board and care facility. Her son, Mark, told TMZ on Friday that her husband, Lowell Harris, was with her when she died.

Swenson was also a trained lyric soprano, who was nominated for two Tony Awards for her roles in the musicals “110 in the Shade” and “Baker Street.” Her other Broadway credits included serving as a stand-in for Julie Andrews’ in the 1960 production of “Camelot” and “The First Gentleman” in 1957, for which she won a Theatre World Award.

She had supporting roles in the 1962 films “The Miracle Worker” and “Advise and Consent” and guested on TV series “Newhart” and “Hotel.” She also played the younger sister of Betty White’s Rose Nyland on “The Golden Girls.”

The native Nebraskan also played vaudeville star Nora Bayes in the 1978 NBC TV movie “Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women” and Maude Hazard in the ABC Civil War miniseries “North and South” in 1985 and 1986.