Florida Friebus; Played Mother of Dobie Gillis

Times Staff Writer

Florida Friebus--who played Dobie Gillis’ mother on the popular television series and also portrayed a group therapy patient on “The Bob Newhart Show"--has died at a retirement home in Laguna Niguel, it was learned Wednesday. She was 79.

Mrs. Friebus, who the Orange County coroner’s office said died Friday, retired in 1979 after suffering several strokes, which ended a long career that included scores of shows for radio, stage and television.

She was perhaps best known for her portrayal of the kind-hearted, sweater-knitting Mrs. Bakerman, a member of an encounter group that met regularly on “The Bob Newhart Show” during its television run from 1972 to 1978.

‘Dobie Gillis’ Role


Another of her most popular TV roles was that of Winnifred Gillis, the understanding mother who continually interceded between father and son in the series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” which ran from 1959 to 1963.

During that time, she also had her own children’s show, “Look and Listen,” on which she read stories on KNXT, the Los Angeles CBS outlet that later became KCBS.

Her interest in children’s literature started in New York City in the late 1940s, when she did a similar program on radio for more than 10 years, said a longtime friend, actress Joan Tompkins.

Mrs. Friebus, born in 1908 on Nantucket Island, Mass., started her career with the Civic Repertory Theater in New York City in 1929, when she appeared in “The Cradle Song” and numerous other productions. In 1932, she and Eva Le Gallienne created a dramatization of “Alice in Wonderland,” which was staged on Broadway and later on television’s Hallmark Hall of Fame.


Worked for Actors Equity

She married actor Richard Waring in 1934 and was divorced in 1952. They had one child, who died in infancy. She was on the council of the Actors Equity Assn. for more than 16 years, and two years ago received the Phil Loeb Award for extraordinary service to her profession.

Mrs. Friebus left no family survivors, and in accordance with her wishes there will be no services. A spokesman for the Ray Family Mortuary in San Clemente said she was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.

She had asked that any commemorative donations be made to the Actors’ Fund of America in New York City.