Remembering a Legend of Stage and Screen | The Loss of Actress Valerie Harper Hits Home

She was the stepmother of South Pasadena City Councilmember Michael Cacciotti, who has served in the capacity since 2001

PHOTO: Ron Frehm | Associated Press | Actress Valerie Harper passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer. She was the stepmother of South Pasadena City Councilmember Michael Cacciotti and was known for her work both on screen and Broadway

Valerie Harper, most known for her role as Rhoda on the classic sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died after a long battle with cancer.

Harper, 80, was the stepmother of South Pasadena City Council member Michael Cacciotti, who has spoken so affectionately about her over the years. Cacciotti has served on the council since 2001.

Harper began her career as a dancer on Broadway, making her debut in the musical “Take Me Along” in 1959.

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Her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a spin-off “Rhoda” in the 1970s.

For her work on “Mary Tyler Moore,” she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series three times, and later received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Rhoda.

From 1986 to 1987, Harper appeared as Valerie Hogan on the sitcom “Valerie.”  Her most notable film appearances include roles in “Freebie and the Bean” (1974) and “Chapter Two”  (1979), both of which garnered her Golden Globe nominations.

Harper returned to stage work her in later career, appearing in several Broadway productions. In 2010, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Talullah Bankhead in the play “Looped.”

Harper made national news in 2009 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She announced on March 6, 2013, that tests from a January hospital stay revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition in which cancer cells spread into the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain.

At the time, Harper said her doctors had given her as little as three months life expectancy. Although the disease was reported to be incurable, reports indicated that her doctors said they were treating her with chemotherapy in an effort to slow its progress.

Further, in April 2014, Harper said she was responding well to the treatment. On July 30, 2015, she was hospitalized in Maine after falling unconscious, and taken via medevac to a larger hospital for further treatment.

She was later discharged.

In 2016, Harper continued battling cancer with treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center but was well enough to appear in a short film, “My Mom and the Girl,” based on the experiences of director/writer Susie Singer Carter, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease.

By July 2019, Harper was on a regimen of “a multitude of medications and chemotherapy drugs” and was experiencing “extreme physical and painful challenges” that required “around the clock, 24/7 care.”