Mary Tyler Moore: A Pioneer For Women And Television

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Ted Knight, Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977.

Actress Mary Tyler Moore, known for The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Tyler Moore Show, died of cardiopulmonary arrest at 80 years old on Jan. 26 in Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, CT. Moore will be remembered for her wit, smile, the model she set for strong women on television and her philanthropy.

“Not only was she a role model in television, she became a model of what was possible despite her disease,” said Marion Levine, Moore’s mother-in-law and former executive director at North Shore Child Family Guidance Center.

Born in Brooklyn in 1936 to George Tyler Moore and his wife Marjorie, Moore was the eldest of three, with a sister, Elizabeth Moore, and brother, John Hackett Moore. When Moore was 8-years-old her family moved to Los Angeles, CA, where Moore began her career at 17 as a dancer, landing her first gig as “Happy Hotpoint,” a dancing elf on Hotpoint appliance commercials in the 1950s during the Ozzie and Harriet series.

Moore then married salesman Richard Meeker in 1955 and gave birth to her only child, Richard Jr., in 1956. After her son’s birth, Moore turned to acting, obtaining small parts on Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye. Her legs became famous on the show Richard Diamond, Private Detective where she played the answering-service girl.

“She was a good wife to my son [Dr. Robert Levine] and he dedicated his life to make sure she would stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible,” said Levine. “She gave us a lot of time at the center and she was our spokesperson for a while. We’re going to remember her as a person who takes up a lot of space in the room. She’s very funny—even at family gatherings, her timing was impeccable.”

Both Marion and her husband, Irving Levine, agreed that the one thing many did not know about Moore, who had lived with type one diabetes, was her philanthropy to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, where she acted as the longtime International Chairman.

“She and my son were very active in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” said Irving. “They were very active in raising money and gave millions to the foundation. They were very active in creating a positive political atmosphere and going in front of Congress as well. The great contribution they both made was that they increased research on the side effects of juvenile diabetes. They expanded research internationally.”

Cast in the popular sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961, Moore played Laura Petrie, wife to Rob (Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy show. Moore soon became America’s sweetheart, showing her talent and wit and earning her two Emmys.

Mary Tyler Moore could turn the world on with her smile throughout the decades.

The same year that Moore began her role as Petrie, her marriage to Meeker ended. She then married Grant Tinker, an executive at 20th Century Fox, in 1962 and formed MTM Enterprises, later creating The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a show about a newly single associate news producer at a local television station in Minneapolis that won Moore four Emmys.

With the creation of her own show filled with strong female characters, Jewish characters and hints at sexuality, Moore proved to be a pioneer for the modern woman on television, influencing many who came after her, such as Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

The outpouring of love from fans of Moore over the past days has been incredible. She made her mark on the world and will be missed.

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