American actress, Florence Henderson, best known for her role of matriarch Carol Brady in the sitcom, “The Brady Bunch,” passed away this past Thanksgiving.

The cause of death is believed to be heart failure

Henderson died Nov. 24, 2016, at a Los Angeles hospital. Her official cause of death was reportedly heart-related failure, according to a statement made by her manager, Kayla Pressman. She had been in the hospital since Wednesday. She was 82 at the time of her passing. Henderson is survived by her four children, which include two sons and two daughters, in addition to five grandchildren.

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The loss of America’s favorite television mother

For most Americans, Henderson’s biggest claim to fame was playing family matriarch Carol Brady on the sitcom, “The Brady Bunch.” Partially influenced by the success of the Lucille Ball film, "Yours, Mine, and Ours," the sitcom portrayed a blended family that was made up of a widower with three sons and a single mother with three daughters. Portrayed as both an equally loving mother and stepmother, the character helped highlight the saccharine nature of the show.

The character of Mrs. Brady went through many changes from the original pitch to the final series. Initially, she was intended to have been a comedic character, similar to Ball, but was rewritten to be the more familiar, maternal figure after it was felt that Ann B. Davis’ character Alice, the household maid, would serve as the comic relief. This led to Henderson being cast in the role as a last-second replacement for comedic actress Joyce Bulifantl, the original choice.

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In fact, Henderson had missed the filming of the first six episodes due to the quick change in schedule.

Another point of contention was the backstory of Carol’s first husband. Originally, series creator Sherwood Schwartz reportedly intended the character to be a divorcee. Eventually, to please the network censors, the series never explained how Carol ended up a single mother, whereas family patriarch Mike was explicitly said to be a widower in the pilot.

Later in her career, however, Henderson would often joke that she imagined Carol had killed her husband in interviews.

After the end of the original sitcom, Henderson would reprise the character in spin-off shows, as late as the 1990 series "The Bradys," which reinvented the series as a drama, and in which Henderson sung the title song. She would also pay tribute to the series in 1995 when she made a guest appearance in "The Brady Bunch Movie."

A look at Henderson’s life

Beyond her work in the sitcom world, Henderson, a native of Dale, Indiana, made her start in acting on Broadway, after moving to New York at the age of 17.

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Becoming something of a media personality beyond the realm of acting, she had also served as a host of the "Today" show, in a position started in 1959, where she would talk to audiences about fashion and the weather. She was also notably one of the first women hosts on "The Tonight Show," albeit from a guest position in the 1960’s.

In recent years, Henderson made a name for herself again by releasing a cookbook, and she also hosted a 2010 cooking series, “Country Kitchen.”

Henderson had also made a name for herself as a spokeswoman in various commercials, notably for Wesson cooking oil.

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She also supported various charities, such as City of Hope and the House Ear Institute.

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