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June 4, 2013

Jean Stapleton, television's Edith Bunker, dies at 90

NEW YORK (AP) — Jean Stapleton, the stage-trained character actress who played Archie Bunker’s far better half, the sweetly naive Edith, in TV’s groundbreaking 1970s comedy “All in the Family,” has died. She was 90.

Stapleton died Friday of natural causes at her New York City home surrounded by friends and family, her children said yesterday.

“It is with great love and heavy hearts that we say farewell to our collective Mother, with a capital M,” said her son and daughter, John Putch and Pamela Putch, in a statement. “Her devotion to her craft and her family taught us all great life lessons.”

Little known to the public before “All In the Family,” Stapleton co-starred with Carroll O’Connor in the top-rated CBS sitcom about an unrepentant bigot, the wife he churlishly but fondly called “Dingbat,” their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and liberal son-in-law Mike, aka Meathead (Rob Reiner).

Stapleton received eight Emmy nominations and won three times during her eight-year tenure with “All in the Family.” Produced by Norman Lear, the series broke through the timidity of U.S. TV with social and political jabs and ranked as the No. 1-rated program for an unprecedented five years in a row. Lear would go on to create a run of socially conscious sitcoms.

“No one gave more profound ‘How to be a Human Being’ lessons than Jean Stapleton,” Lear said yesterday. In a statement, Reiner added: “Jean was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing. Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Stapleton also earned Emmy nominations for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1982 film “Eleanor, First Lady of the World” and for a guest appearance in 1995 on “Grace Under Fire.”

Her big-screen films included a pair directed by Nora Ephron: the 1998 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romance “You’ve Got Mail” and 1996’s “Michael” starring John Travolta. She also turned down the chance to star in the popular mystery show, “Murder, She Wrote,” which became a showcase for Angela Lansbury.

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