Florence Henderson and Christopher Knight

‘Brady Bunch’ Mom, Florence Henderson, Had Two Families

For many, news that Florence Henderson, mother of The Brady Bunch clan, passed away on Thanksgiving hit them hard. Henderson initially played Carol Brady on the original show from 1969 to 1974 and again numerous times for many reunion shows and TV movies. She was our favorite mom of TV.

Henderson passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles Thursday night suffering from heart failure. She is survived by her four children Barbara, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Robert.

Henderson has always been outspoken about how proud she was of her children and grandchildren. Barbara followed in her mother’s acting footsteps and even appeared on The Brady Bunch three times. In 1975 she played a role on Police Woman and began work as a producer in 1995. Elizabeth also did some acting appearing in 1992’s movie, Somebody’s Daughter. Sons Joseph and Robert have pretty much stayed out of the limelight.

The Brady Bunch family
Scene from the pilot episode of “Brady Bunch.” [Image by Getty Images]

As for the Brady clan, Henderson played “mom” to them both on and off screen. “We spent so many hours together with the kids, and I sort of became like a second mother to them,” Henderson told Good Housekeeping in 2015.

“I was the only person on the show that was a mother in real life. I already had four children — my youngest was just a little tiny thing. I really wound up treating them like my children on the set, and shaking my finger at them. It was interesting, and they loved it. I wanted them to be professional and nice kids – and they are. I feel very close to the kids.”

As recently as this season of Dancing with the Stars, Henderson was often in the audience rooting for Maureen McCormick who played Marcia on Brady Bunch. She surprised McCormick by attending the show’s Season 23 premiere and even appeared in one of McCormick’s and Artem Chigvinstsev’s routines. In an interview, Henderson told Maureen, “I’m so proud of you. We’ve done a lot together.” Florence was also in the audience during Monday’s finals, even though McCormick had already been eliminated week’s earlier.

Florence Henderson on DWTS
Florence Henderson gets a kiss from Maureen McCormick while appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” this year. [Image by ABC]

“Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my life forever. Love & hugs to her family. I’ll muss u dearly.” Posted McCormick this week on Twitter.

Susan Olsen, who played youngest daughter Cindy on The Brady Bunch, also thought of Florence as a second mom but gave her condolences to Henderson’s children. She recently told Variety, “My heart right now is going to her four children. I always felt we stole the limelight from them. They had to share her so much.” During the series, Olsen was friends with Henderson’s daughter Lizzy and once while the three were out doing something fun together, a man stopped them and said to Olsen, “You must be her real daughter” to which Lizzy cried. Olsen’s own son saw Henderson as an extra grandmother. Olsen said that when she was consoling her son when his last grandparent passed away he said, “I’ve still got Grandama Flo!”

Mike Lookinland who played Bobby told New York Daily News that his own kids also thought of Henderson as “Grandma Florence” and how his mother and Florence were great friends. “She’s the same age as my mother,” he said, explaining the added resonance of the unexpected loss. “It makes you think you should spend more time with the people you love because they might not be here tomorrow.”

“‘She’s just one I could’ve spent more time with,’ Christopher Knight told Entertainment Tonight. Knight played middle brother Peter on The Brady Bunch. ‘There was one show where we were in the backyard with our mitts and throwing the ball around, and she was dressed like she was ready to play with us, and I think it was at that point I thought she was really cool,’ Knight recalled. ‘She could be one of the guys and very much like mom, like a mom you’d want to have, and America has responded to [her] in the same way. She was just a wonderful kind of warm and stern mothering figure. She, to me, was just someone I never wanted to disappoint,’ he continued. ‘I admired her so much and respected her as a child … and I’ve lived like that ever since.'”

Jan, the other middle child in the series played by Eve Plumb, also tweeted, “Florence was a wonderful role model for me and all of us ‘kids.’ She taught me how to be a professional actor by her example of preparedness and respect for the work and her fellow cast and crew members … She was also loving, warm, generous, and could tell a funny, dirty joke. I’m fortunate to have been able to know and to work with her. She will be missed by her children, grandchildren, and us ‘kids.'”

Barry Williams, who played the eldest son, Greg, on the series, has tweeted, “Florence was one of the most gracious people I have ever known. Proud to call her Mom and lifelong friend.”

[Featured Image by Phil McCarten/AP Images]

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