Charlotte Rae, who played a wise and patient housemother to a brood of teenage girls on the long-running sitcom The Facts of Life during a career that encompassed many other TV roles as well as stage and film appearances, has died. She was 92. Rae died at her Los Angeles home Sunday, said her publicist, Harlan Boll. A cause of death was not immediately available, but Rae reportedly was diagnosed last year with bone cancer after beating pancreatic cancer. She originated the character of Mrs. Garrett in 1978 during the first season of NBC's comedy Diff'rent Strokes, then took Mrs. Garrett with her for the spinoff Facts of Life, which premiered the following season.
Initially set at a girls' boarding school, Facts ran for nine seasons. Rae left after its seventh year, however, explaining later, "I needed some time for the rest of my life." She earned an Emmy nomination for the part, and was a two-time Tony nominee for her work on Broadway. Edna Garrett provided kind if sometimes wry counsel to her charges (played by young co-stars including Lisa Whelchel, Nancy McKeon, and Molly Ringwald) on a series that was praised for dealing with such sensitive issues of teenhood as sex, drug use, eating disorders, and peer pressure. "I wanted to bring in as much humanity as possible, as well as the humor," Rae told the AP early in the show's run. "I don't want her to be Polly Perfect, because she must have human failings and make mistakes."