Here’s a story of a lovely lady…
It’s pretty remarkable that a person — synonymous with love and gratitude — began her life on a day that we celebrate the former, and passed on a day when we give thanks for the latter. Florence Agnes Henderson, born on Valentine’s Day in Dale, Indiana in 1934, passed away yesterday on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles.
The youngest of ten children to sharecropper, Joseph, and wife Elizabeth, Florence spent much of her childhood working to help her struggling family — often cleaning other people’s homes, babysitting, and occasionally singing songs in exchange for groceries.
Heeding discerning advice, as well as getting help from the father of an affluent school friend, Florence arrived in New York to hone her skills and pursue a career in theater.
She would ultimately build an impressive resume — starring in Fanny on Broadway, and The King and I in Los Angeles, South Pacific at the Lincoln Center, and two national tours of The Sound of Music and Oklahoma.
And, of course, after all of that, she would come into our homes as the warm and affable matriarch, Mrs. Brady, on The Brady Bunch — a series that ran from 1969 to 1974.
Critics ridiculed the show for its unrealistic wholesome plots. Florence responded by saying that the show should be watched “through the eyes of a child.”
She was right.
Many in my generation grew up with the Bradys. We were there when Peter habitually recited “Pork chops and applesauce,” in his best Humphrey Bogart impersonation in an attempt to make his own personality more appealing; we were there when live-in housekeeper, Alice, felt unappreciated by the children; we were there when Jan was upset for constantly hearing about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”; we were there when Marcia infuriated Greg for dating his rival, Warren Mulaney; we were there when karma caught up with Marcia for breaking a date with an Average Joe by using the excuse “Something suddenly came up,” (yes, the broken nose episode); we were there when the Bradys went to Hawaii; and we were there when they sang their timeless hit, “It’s a Sunshine Day.”
We were there for Mrs. Brady, and in so many ways, she was there for us.
She is survived by two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth; two sons, Joseph and Robert; five grandchildren, and … all of us.
Perhaps in her honor, we can have a Sunshine Day.
RIP Florence “Mrs. Brady” Henderson