While the death of TV legend Valerie Harper wasn't a shock to many due to her long battle with cancer, it still hit hard with fans of her career. As Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the spin-off named after her character, Harper crafted one of the best TV best friends in history and led the pack as the brash neighbor everybody wanted to have.
And as it turns out, that persona wasn't too far off from reality. Harper was diagnosed with the disease that took her life back in 2013, with doctors only giving her three months to live. Instead, she made it a week past her 80th birthday and kept fighting along the way.
Eight months after her diagnosis, she claimed to be in remission and went on to join Dancing With the Stars by saying her doctors wanted her to exercise. But fans could tell she wanted to keep going and enjoy life long before that. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, the Rhoda star wanted everybody to skip fear and accept death.
"I'm a big mouth. … I really want Americans and all of us to be less afraid of death, know that it's a passage," she said on a March 2013 episode of The Doctors syndicated talk show. "But don't go to the funeral before the day of the funeral. While you're living, live."
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And according to her daughter Cristina, this attitude never faltered over the years since her diagnosis. According to The Daily Mail, the iconic Mary Tyler Moore actress was "upbeat and positive" and not afraid of death.
"I think she wants people to continue loving one another and continue bringing joy into the world in any way that they know how," Harper's daughter Cristina said to the outlet. "And I think she does hope that at the end of the day her legacy of love will live on."
Many fans, famous friends and co-stars shared their love for Harper on Friday after news of her passing broke. Mary Tyler Moore co-star Ed Asner was one of the first and shared a heartwarming statement with PEOPLE.
"Valerie was a brilliant artist with a myriad of ideas on how to make the character more interesting; and was a fighter for those less fortunate," Asner told the outlet.0comments
He also posted a short statement on Twitter alongside a photo of the two co-stars at the Emmys. Others who had shared the screen with Harper also posted their thoughts, including former Melrose Place co-star Alyssa Milano and 2 Broke Girls star Beth Behrs who called her moment with Harper one of the "highlights" of her career.
Harper was 80 years old.