"Facts Of Life" Star Charlotte Rae Dies At 92

By Kelly Burch 08/06/18

Rae had been sober for decades, after attending her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the early 1970s.

Charlotte Rae

Charlotte Rae, the actress who became famous as Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, died Sunday at 92. 

Rae was diagnosed with bone cancer last year and was weighing how aggressively to treat the disease, according to People. She had previously been treated for pancreatic cancer, and was declared cancer-free after chemotherapy. 

“So now, at the age of 91, I have to make up my mind,” she told People in April 2017. “I’m not in any pain right now. I’m feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground. Now I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again to opt for life. I love life. I’ve had a wonderful one already. I have this decision to make.”

Rae had been sober for decades, after attending her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the early 1970s, when she was filming a short-lived appearance as the mail lady on Sesame Street. Rae was in her 40s and said that alcohol had become her drug of choice and preferred sleeping aid by the time she realized that she needed help. 

“After the wrap party for Sesame Street, I went over to a meeting,” she told Fox News last year. “I was expecting to see a bunch of bums with red noses and burlap flying around. No—I saw a lot of well dressed, beautiful people. At the end of the meeting, we all held hands and said the Lord’s prayer. And I wept. That was the beginning of my sobriety. I’m now 42 years sober.”

Rae’s husband, composer John Strauss, also went to AA, and later confessed to his sponsor that he was gay. 

“The sponsor said, ‘You have to tell your wife.’ So he did. When he told me, I thought I was going to faint. I couldn’t believe it. We were very, very close,” she said. However, the couple remained cordial. “It was tough, but I never, never said anything about John to my children. Never. We continued to be friends. It was very painful, but because of my support system and my admiration for him, I survived and went on.”

In addition to her well-known roles on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, Rae made appearances on ER, Pretty Little Liars, Sisters, and The King of Queens. She also starred in movies including Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Tom and Jerry: The Movie, and was the voice of “Nanny” in the animated 101 Dalmations: The Series.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.