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Nancy Walker; Comedienne Had Roles in Several TV Series

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raspy voiced comedienne Nancy Walker--who appeared in several television series but was perhaps best known as Rosie the waitress who hawked the “quicker-picker-upper” paper towels in commercials--died Wednesday of lung cancer at her Studio City home.

Miss Walker, 69, had battled the disease for the last two years, said Frank Liberman, a family friend.

Standing barely five feet tall and weighing just over 100 pounds, the wisecracking Miss Walker was the memorable Mrs. Morgenstern, Rhoda’s mother, on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff, “Rhoda.”

She was also Rock Hudson’s irreverent housekeeper on the CBS series “MacMillan and Wife,” and later starred in her own short-lived series, “The Nancy Walker Show,” and “Blansky’s Beauties.”

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Her last television role was on the Fox Broadcasting Co.'s comedy “True Colors,” playing a Jewish mother who has a black son-in-law. She appeared in 21 of the show’s 22 episodes, but was too ill to work in the final segment, Liberman said.

Born Anna Myrtle Swoyer May 10, 1922, in Philadelphia, Miss Walker was able to keep an audience laughing with a mere shrug of her shoulders or the raising of an eyebrow. Her mother, Myrtle Lawler, was a dancer, and her father, Dewey Swoyer, whose stage name was Dewey Barto, was a vaudeville comedian.

She made her Broadway debut at 19 in 1941 in “Best Foot Forward,” persuading producer George Abbott to create a part for her. Abbott was at an audition waiting to hear an established singer when she was mistakenly introduced as “Miss Walker.”

She officially became Nancy Walker and later appeared on Broadway in shows such as “On The Town,” “Barefoot Boy With Cheek,” “Look Ma, I’m Dancing” and “Fallen Angels.”

Miss Walker launched her television career after moving to Los Angeles in 1970, and was nominated for Emmy awards three times for her work on “MacMillan and Wife” and once as Mrs. Morgenstern on “Rhoda.”

Miss Walker was also a director who made her Broadway directing debut in 1956 with “UTBU,” starring Thelma Ritter and Tony Randall. And in the 1970s, she directed episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda” and “Alice.”

She is survived by her husband of 40 years, David Craig, a daughter, Miranda Craig, and a sister, Betty Lou Barto.

There will be no funeral or memorial services, Liberman said. The Neptune Society will scatter her ashes at sea after cremation, he said.

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The family asks that contributions be made in her name to the Actors’ Fund in Los Angeles.


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