Mourning the Loss of Shining Star Valerie Harper
by Diane Howard, Contributing Writer
The world has lost a shining star, Valerie Harper. Actress Harper died August 30, 2019, in Los Angeles, just eight days after her 80th birthday.
Diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare cancer of the lining of the brain, in 2013, Harper survived beyond her doctors’ expectations.
As the condition of the actress, best known for playing Rhoda on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, progressed and as she declined, her husband, Tony Cacciotti, wanted her at home rather than in hospice.
Cacciotti, who was determined to be by his wife’s side no matter what, said that their marriage deepened through her struggle with cancer and that they had an extraordinarily strong friendship.
Harper, who was reared in the Catholic faith, faced her condition with faith, acceptance and a positive spirit.
Harper’s daughter Cristina described her mother as a person filled with joy who while they cleaned the house listened to such as the Beach Boys and danced more than worked.
For her work on THE MARY TYLER MOORE, she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series three times. She also later received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on RHODA.
Cristina also said that her mother had always been her best friend.
Harper said she was grateful to have Cacciotti by her side as she fought her illness.
She was also thankful for her career in acting and dancing. She even appeared on DANCING WITH THE STARS.
In 2014, Valerie also guest-starred on the first two episodes of Hallmark’s inspirational SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, created by Martha Williamson of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. Harper said, “What I love about Martha … She’s highly spiritual…as a Christian, (she has) a wonderful deep (faith) — but never finger-wagging, never using it as a way to put others down…”
At the time of filming, Harper’s cancer remained contained. She credited this to the prayers and good wishes of her friends and fans, along with the good work of her doctor and medical caregivers. After her diagnoses, she remained active and was also seen in the UP TV movie THE TOWN THAT CAME A COURTIN.
Harper’s career spanned nearly seven decades in TV, film and theater. She was nominated for eight Emmys and won four. She was nominated for six Golden Globes and won one. She was also nominated for a best actress Tony in 2010 for her role in the play “Looped”.
After publicly sharing her cancer diagnosis, Harper continued working on TV and stage well into her 70s. She was a positive inspiration until the end.
Editor’s Note: Diane Howard, Ph.D. (Performance Studies)