Charlotte Rae, who starred as Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life

August 13, 2018

Obituaries

Charlotte Rae, who starred as Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life

Actress Charlotte Rae, who won acclaim playing the housemother Edna Garrett on the sitcom The Facts of Life, has died. She
was 92.

Rae, who was nominated for Emmy and Tony awards, died Sunday, August 5 at her home in Los Angeles. She was diagnosed
last year with bone cancer; she had survived pancreatic cancer.

Rae first appeared as Mrs. Garrett in a recurring role as a housekeeper on the popular sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, and then for seven years on its spinoff, The Facts of Life, beginning in 1979. Her Emmy nomination was for the show.

Her career also featured appearances on more than 50 television shows.

Rae worked in theater before her TV career took off, garnering two Tony nominations—in 1966 as best featured actress in a musical in Pickwick, and in 1969 for best actress in a play for Morning, Noon and Night.

Her last role in a feature film was alongside Meryl Streep in the 2015 movie Rikki and the Flash. She also appeared in films such as Woody Allen’s Bananas in 1971, Hair in 1979 and the Adam Sandler comedy You Don’t Mess with the Zohan in
2008.

Rae was born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Russian Jewish immigrants. Her mother, Esther, was a
childhood friend of the future Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, also a Milwaukee native. Rae reportedly dropped her Jewish-sounding surname on the advice of an unnamed radio personality.

She released her autobiography, The Facts of My Life, in 2015, co-written by her son Larry Strauss.

Rae was married for 25 years to composer John Strauss, but divorced in 1976 when he came out as bisexual. Her son Andrew, who was diagnosed with autism, died in his mid-40s of a heart attack in 1999.

She is survived by her son, Larry; three grandchildren; and a sister, Miriam Guten.

Jackie Gothard, who led rebuilding of New Orleans congregation after Hurricane Katrina

As the president of her New Orleans Orthodox congregation in 2005, Jackie Gothard oversaw the burial of seven Torah
scrolls ruined by flooding from Hurricane Katrina.

Then she made sure her synagogue would be reborn.

Gothard, the driving force behind the rebuilding of Congregation Beth Israel, died last month of heart failure following emergency surgery, The Crescent City Jewish News reported. She was 83.

The first female president of Beth Israel in the Lakeview section of New Orleans, Gothard was in office when Katrina struck.
She recalled burying the Torah scrolls in a story she recounted 10 years later for The My Katrina Story project, a multimedia
partnership of the Loyola University School of Mass Communication, the Center for the Study of New Orleans and  NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.

Some 150 people attended the burial in a cemetery plot of the Torah scrolls.

A year later, a girl named Hayley Fields from Los Angeles, who for her bat mitzvah project sold plastic watches for $5 each to raise money for a refurbished Torah, brought the new scroll to the synagogue on the first anniversary of Katrina.

“It was amazing. All around us church bells were ringing [to mark the anniversary],” Gothard recalled for the My Katrina  Project story. “We had klezmer music and were dancing in the street outside Gates of Prayer with our new Torah. Four additional refurbished Torahs were donated. Each one that came was amazing. It was such a celebration for Beth Israel.”

Gothard guided the building of Beth Israel’s new home in suburban Metairie alongside the Reform synagogue Congregation Gates of Prayer.

The New Orleans-based Crescent City Jewish News called Gothard the “primary author of the then-101 year-old Orthodox  congregation’s recovery.” Gothard was the first to meet with the Gates of Prayer rabbi and administrator to discuss relocating
next door to the Reform synagogue and, the newspaper said, “it was Gothard who rallied the dispersed members, suggesting a comeback from such a tragedy  was possible.”

She also traveled to Milwaukee to meet with representatives of the Orthodox Union to express her congregation’s desperate
plight and seek financial assistance. She returned home with a six-figure contribution from the umbrella group to help in the recovery effort.

Gothard was a social worker for Child Protective Services at the New Orleans Department of Welfare, and later worked as a travel agent specializing in trips to Israel. She also led six-week teen tours of Israel for six years.

Gothard was involved in Hadassah, Jewish Family Services—she was active in the Teen Life Counts suicide prevention
program—the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Jewish War Veterans of America.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years, Sol; five children; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson; and a sister. (JTA)

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