Valerie Harper has passed away at 80 after a battle with cancer

My breath caught in my throat when I saw this devastating (though, sadly, not unexpected) news on Friday night. Beloved icon Valerie Harper has passed away after a battle with brain cancer. She was 80. People has a thorough tribute for Valerie:

Valerie Harper, who played one of TV’s most popular and enduring characters — the constantly dating, constantly dieting Rhoda Morgenstern — for nearly a decade starting in 1970, has died, PEOPLE confirms. She was 80.

Harper’s daughter Cristina Harper Cacciotti spoke out about her mother’s death on behalf of her father Tony Cacciotti on Twitter writing, “My dad has asked me to pass on this message: ‘My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06 a.m., after years of fighting cancer.’”

“She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest in Peace, mia Valeria. — Anthony.”

Harper had been battling a number of health issues over the past few years, including leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, lung cancer and brain cancer.

People wrote of her taking on the role of her most famous character, Rhoda Morgenstern:

Once she debuted as the kooky neighbor from New York on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970, Harper liked to say, “People identify with Rhoda because she’s a loser” — a claim that the actress would soon have to deny.

Though the CBS Saturday night sitcom was not a ratings hit its first season, Harper took home the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress. After that, the show remained solidly in the top 10 for years, and Harper won two more supporting actress awards.

From that success came the 1974–78 spin-off Rhoda and a Best Actress Emmy. When Rhoda got married, on October 28, 1974, the special hour-long episode shattered ratings records with 52 million viewers — more than half of America’s entire viewing audience.

In 2017, Valerie revealed that when she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013, she had been given three months to live. In 2014, she had told People that “she was at peace with her diagnosis”:

“I’m ready. I’m ready to go,” she said. “Maybe that’s the secret. That I’m absolutely — I don’t want to, my God, I want to live to be 102. … But I am not banking on anything, really, because we shouldn’t. We don’t know what’s around the corner. I think you just take each day and get the best out of it and do what you can and have fun.”

[From People]

CBS also has a nice story about Valerie. Ed Asner, Valerie’s costar on The Mary Tyler Moore show shared a picture of himself and Valerie on Twitter. Ed wrote a sweet note about his friend passing.

I’m glad that Valerie was able to make peace with her death, but my heart aches for her husband, her daughter, the rest of her family, her friends, and her fans. Rest in peace, Valerie.

Here’s Valerie telling Larry King in 2002 how she got the part of Rhoda:

Valerie on The Doctors in 2013:

Photos credit: WENN and

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19 Responses to “Valerie Harper has passed away at 80 after a battle with cancer”

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  1. Lightpurple says:

    May this wonderful, vibrant woman rest in peace. Saw her in a play here in Boston. The actors were collecting for Broadway Cares. She made the speech at the end of the performance, bucket in hand, and then walked straight down the center aisle collecting as she went. She then walked out the door of the theater and collected from the audience leaving the theater but passersby on the sidewalk, who were delighted to encounter Valerie Harper

    • FHMom says:

      Wow. That’s amazing. She was so brave. RIP, Valerie.

    • Mrs. Darcy says:

      Met her once a million years ago in New York and she was hands down the friendliest, kindest genuinely most down to earth celebrity ever. I had also seen her in a play and one night she came into the ice cream shop where I worked with her daughter. I told her I liked the play and she was great, expecting nothing more than maybe a thank you. She stopped everything and even held up the line chatting to me. She had no reason to go out of her way to be nice to me but she did, even asking me questions about my acting dreams, saying I was pretty, wishing me luck, like my jaw was just on the floor at how generous of spirit she was. I never met anyone like her and I served quite a few famous people in my various low level jobs. She fought this sucky disease off for so long, what a strong and beautiful woman. RIP.

  2. NLopez says:

    She always seemed like someone I would’ve liked to know. A feisty, kindhearted soul. RIP Valerie.

  3. smcollins says:

    Even though we knew this one was coming it’s still kind of a shock. Rest In Peace Valerie, the world won’t be the same without your vibrancy and sense of humor.

  4. L84Tea says:

    This makes me so sad. When I was a senior in high school I got my first TV in my bedroom and I used to stay up late watching the old Rhoda reruns on Nick at Night. Loved her!

  5. TQB says:

    I’m in awe of how accepting her fate actually helped her fight harder. F cancer.

  6. Esmom says:

    What an actor, what a woman. A model of strength and grace. RIP.

  7. JanetFerber says:

    So sorry to hear this. A funny lady, icon and role model. Loved her on the Mary Tyler Moore show. Classic show and classic women. Both will be remembered fondly by adoring fans. Both also died at 80.

  8. Christin says:

    Truly a spunky, vibrant personality.

  9. Marjorie says:

    Loved her. Glad she got to be 80.

  10. Lala11_7 says:

    I feel like she helped raise me! As a kid…in the 70s…I was always wondering if I were a “Mary”…a “Phyllis”…or a “Rhoda”…. (I’m a combo of Phyllis and Rhoda)….

    I was so LUCKY to have such awesome women to watch growing up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Valarie was a magnificent actor…that I NEVA saw enough of onscreen!!!!

    • terra says:

      I was a kid in the 90s and I wondered the same thing! I loved all the Nick at Nite shows, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show were my favorites. Later they showed Rhoda and I watched all of that, too. (I’m a Rhoda with features of Mary, I think. Type A enough for Mary, scattered enough for Rhoada – yes, it is a mess in my head, lol.) So amazing that questions like that can cross generations.

      I lost my father a few years ago, so I know now that grief doesn’t end, it just ebbs and flows. Here’s hoping that Valerie’s family reaches low tide soon.

  11. (TheOG)@Jan90067 says:

    As a chubby, Jewish kid growing up in the age of Twiggy, I was so in love with Valerie’s portrayal of “Rhoda” (yes, I know Valerie wasn’t Jewish). But her Rhoda was one of the first of seeing a Jewish character on a show that was female, beautiful, and funny.

    MTM in reruns is always on my DVR (FETV and Sundance lineup; wish they’d do a Rhoda run, too!). It still makes me laugh 😊

    RIP Valerie, and deepest condolences to her family ❤️

    • Enny says:

      While so many Jewish performers had to change their names and hide themselves just for a chance at roles, it is a blessing that the studios had the sense to at least hire Valerie, who did give that character such life, beauty, and humanity. ❤️

  12. holly hobby says:

    RIP beautiful lady. She outlived the original timeline.

  13. Nightsky says:

    Ironically, I just rewatched the SATC episodes with Valerie Harper
    and felt such a pang for her. Lovely, talented, funny lady. RIP dear Valerie. xx

  14. Ana says:

    Few remember that Valerie dated Peter Horton before he married Michelle Pfeiffer. She had some fun roles besides Rhoda. Blame It on Rio, The Last Married Couple in America and her guest spot on Sex and the City come to mind. She will be missed.