Farewell to Florence Henderson

Actress and entertainer Florence Henderson suffered a heart attack and died Thursday at age 82.

She had a full life and resume, and is likely best known for her portrayal of Carol Brady on the sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974, which was only a part of her long and impressive career.

I first met Florence in the late 1970s when she was married to a wonderful gentleman, theatrical producer Ira Bernstein. Ira collected vintage toy vehicles, and would often set up a sales/trade booth with Florence at an antique toy show in Long Beach, California. We were fellow toy collectors with different specializations and a common passion. Their home décor included beautiful display cases lined with Ira's remarkable collection. Florence and Ira had four children together. They divorced in 1985, but remained lifelong friends. Ira now lives out of state, but we had I had a heartfelt and bittersweet telephone conversation yesterday.

Florence and I became reacquainted when some friends at the CBS studio in Los Angeles invited me to accompany them at a broadcast of Dancing with the Stars in May of 2013. Florence had been a previous contestant, but that night was also attending as a guest of the show, something she frequently enjoyed doing. In fact, she was at the season finale on Monday, just days before she died. DWTS was the perfect blend of show business, style, and grace-- as was Florence.

We shared quite a number of mutual friends, including Laurie and Peter Marshall, Ruta Lee and Webb Lowe, Mary and Fred Willard, and many others. We developed a very nice social friendship. In September of 2015, we both attended a party hosted by our friends Sherry Hackett-Loftus and David Loftus at their home in Beverly Hills. The soiree included several psychics, and Florence asked me to join her in the clairvoyant readings. We had a wonderful time and she was a bit surprised by some of the spooky revelations she heard from the soothsayers. I was more of a cynic, emailing when I got home, "Fun evening. Let me know if any ghosts stop by your place tonight."

Bernie Shine and Florence Henderson in Beverly Hills last year. (Photo by Timothy Fielding)

Florence was always working, traveling, and fully engaging in life, oftentimes emailing me positive messages from Orlando, St. Louis, or some other location on the road, where she was either working or visiting children and grandchildren.

She had a positive and uplifting energy, constantly validating others. In August of last year I had written an article for the Huffington Post about comic Joe Wong, which including some videos of his standup routines. Florence emailed me "I read your article on Joe Wong and listened to his routine. He is adorable and brilliant!!!"

In March of this year she attended Carol Channing's 95th birthday at the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, where she met my friend Thomas Lauderdale, founder and creative director of the musical group Pink Martini. She emailed me that "Thomas Lauderdale is delightful and very talented!"

In July she emailed me another joyful note, "I'm on a ship entertaining!! Such fun!!!"

She had previously read my Huffington Post remembrances about my friends Phyllis Diller and Doris Roberts, and shared kind words with me about both tributes. On Friday a mutual friend emailed me about Florence's passing, poignantly and powerfully concluding that "everyone gets a turn." So it is. And now it is Florence's time to be remembered.

Florence passing was like a falling star in the night sky-- sudden, unexpected, and radiant. Thanks for brightening so many of our lives while you were here.