Beth Howland, the actress who played the beloved, ditzy waitress Vera on the hit 1970s and ‘80s sitcom Alice, has died of lung cancer, her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough, told The New York Times on Tuesday, May 24. She was 74.
Although Howland passed away on December 31, 2015, it was her wish for her death to go unannounced, Kimbrough said. She also said that she didn’t want a funeral or a memorial service.
“It was the Boston side of her personality coming out,” he told The Times. “She didn’t want to make a fuss.”
Howland’s character Vera was known for her accident-prone tendencies and her jumpy reaction to things that happened within the confines of the Phoenix, Arizona, diner where she worked.
Asked to describe her character, Howland told Knight Newspapers in 1979 that Vera was “insecure and vulnerable. Probably works the hardest of anybody in the diner. Very gullible, very innocent.”
In addition to Alice, Boston-born Howland also played small parts on The Mary Tyler Moore Show; The Rookies; Love, American Style; Little House on the Prairie; Murder, She Wrote; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; and The Tick.
She got her start in theater, with small parts in the off-Broadway hit Your Own Thing, a musical version of Twelfth Night. It was her role in Company, however, that ultimately earned her the part of Vera.
Howland is survived by Kimbrough and her daughter, Holly, from her previous marriage to Bonnie and Clyde actor Michael J. Pollard.
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