Mary Grace Canfield has died at age 89. The iconic actress was well known for her appearance in Green Acres. In the comedy series, Canfield played handywoman Ralph Monroe. Appearing in 41 episodes, the actress often addressed the residents of Hooterville with her signature greeting “Howdie Doodie!”
In a majority of the episodes, Ralph appeared alongside her brother Alf Monroe. The recurring characters spent years remodeling the Douglas’ bedroom. Ralph’s unusual wardrobe often included an old pair of overalls.
Los Angeles Times offers an eloquent description of the character Ralph:
“She was a down-home gal in bib overalls and a white painter’s cap worn backward, a funny, plain-spoken woman doing ‘man’s work’ before feminism made the term quaint.”
Although she was not glamorous, Ralph was memorable for her quick wit and sarcasm. Despite the character’s popularity, Canfield did not want to be remembered as Ralph Monroe:
“To be remembered for Ralph kind of upsets me… Only in the sense that it was so easy and undemanding. It’s being known for something easy to do instead of something you worked hard to achieve.”
Mary Grace Canfield said she knew she wanted to be an actress before she graduated from high school. She was given a wonderful opportunity, as she was taught by famed drama coach Jason Deeter.
Foregoing an opportunity to attend college, Canfield appeared in numerous Broadway plays. As she gained invaluable experience, she soon headed to Hollywood.
Mary Grace Canfield’s career spanned four decades. In addition to her appearance in Green Acres, she also appeared in several other series’, including Bewitched, General Hospital, and The Hathaways.
In a majority of her roles, Canfield portrayed women who were simple and unglamorous. Despite the characters’ lack of flair, the actress found many subtle ways to make them shine.
A native Rochester, New York, Canfield and her husband John Bischof eventually settled in Maine, where they lived for nearly 30 years. As her health began to fail, she eventually moved to Santa Barbara, California.
Daughter Phoebe Alexiades confirms that her mother suffered from lung cancer. She passed away on Saturday in a Santa Barbara hospice facility.
Mary Grace Canfield is survived by her husband John, daughters Phoebe Alexiades and Alison Carey, and three grandchildren. She will be well-remembered as the beloved handywoman on Green Acres.