Jean Byron, 80, an actress best known for portraying Patty Duke's mother on the 1960s TV series 'The Patty Duke Show', died Feb. 3 from an infection following hip replacement surgery in Mobile, Ala.
As Natalie Lane, she was Duke's "Mommo" on the ABC show that aired from 1963 to 1966. When the cast came together for a 1999 reunion show, Byron and Duke reconnected and began speaking every Sunday, they both said at the time.
"She truly lived a life of love and giving," Duke said Monday in a phone interview from her Idaho home. "She was indeed a mom to me. We used to laugh that she was no longer childless."
Duke remained in touch with her after the series ended, even spending Christmas together three years ago.
"I was always proud of the show," Byron said in a 1999 interview with the Mobile Register, which reported her death Monday. "It was wholesome. It was family entertainment. Not only that, but we had a brilliant, brilliant star."
The show centered on identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane, both portrayed by Patty Duke.
"We were a very close, tight company," she said of the cast. "There was much love between us."
Ms. Byron's death marks the second loss of a cast member from the show in the last few months - John Spencer, better known to TV fans as Leo McGarry on 'The West Wing', suffered a fatal heart attack a few months ago. He played the boyfriend for the Cathy character.
Byron was born Imogene Burkhart in Paducah, Ky. That was the same name her close friend Max Shulman gave the recurring character he wrote for her on 'The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis' (CBS, 1959 to 1963).
So technically, it could be said that Ms. Byron was playing the televersion of herself. But instead of growing up in Paducah and becoming an actress in Hollywood, she kept her original name and received a doctorate; teaching high school psychology and biology in Central City.
In a way, Jean Byron could be considered a fore-runner for the two Drew Carey ('The Drew Carey Show' & 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?') and two Will Smith ('Fresh Prince of Bel Air' & 'Blossom') characters in Toobworld.
Oddly enough, until a year before Dr. Burkhart showed up, a woman named Mrs. Ruth Adams who looked EXACTLY like her was teaching math at Central High. And there had been a young classmate of Dobie's who was known by the name of Imogene Burkhart.
A case of soul transference, placing the young girl's spirit into the older woman's body? [Edited thanks to Ivan G.]
I really ought to stop focusing so much on Toobworld and get out more often!
In 1956, she appeared in an episode of 'Studio 57' entitled "Rope Enough". But this is not the same "Rope Enough" which introduced the character of Lt. Columbo to Toobworld. That was on 'Suspense' and starred Bert Freed as the police detective.
It would have been a cool credit though, considering Ms. Byron also appeared in "Ransom For A Dead Man", the second pilot film for the eventual series which starred Peter Falk as 'Columbo'.
Ms. Byron appeared in dozens of other television shows before retiring in 1985. Burkhart's final acting appearance was the 'Patty Duke Show Reunion' movie in 1999.
We tip our hat and echo Red Skelton with "May God bless....."
"Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour" (1970) TV Series
"The Patty Duke Show" (1963) TV Series .... Natalie Lane
"Full Circle" (1960) TV Series .... Dr. Kit Aldrich
"The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (1959) TV Series .... Mrs. Ruth Adams (1959-1960)/Dr. Imogene Burkhart (1961-1963)
Columbo: Ransom For A Dead Man (1971) (as Jeanne Byron) .... Pat
The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights (1999) (TV) .... Natalie Lane
Best of Patty Duke (1963) (TV) .... Natalie Lane
"You Are There"
- Spindletop--The First Texas Oil Strike (1901) (1955) TV Episode .... Caroline Lucas
TV GUEST APPEARANCES
- Past Tense (1987) TV Episode .... Dorothy Anderson
- Hit Men (1975) TV Episode .... Nurse Marlowe
- Florida's Goodbye (1974) TV Episode .... Housekeeper Applicant
- Scapegoat (1972) TV Episode .... Helen
- Give My Regrets to Broadway (1972) TV Episode .... Evelyn Reinhart
"Marcus Welby, M.D."
- I Can Hardly Tell You Apart (1971) TV Episode .... Dr. Koerner
- Nora Clavicle and Her Ladies' Crime Club (1968) TV Episode .... Mrs. Lindseed, Mayor's Wife
- Bad Blood (1962) TV Episode .... Annie Whitaker
- Fall into Darkness (1962) TV Episode .... Norma Frances
- The Idol (1962) TV Episode .... Deborah Morse
- Road to Three Graves (1960) TV Episode .... Alice Norris
- Blind Spot (1959) TV Episode .... Ruth
- The Broken Pledge (1957) TV Episode .... Fay Kirby
"The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor"
- Crossed Wires (1962) TV Episode .... Livona Hart
- The Man from Bootstrap (1961) TV Episode .... Helen Adamson
- Appointment in Jericho (1960) TV Episode .... Marla Keel
- The Kikiki Kid (1960) TV Episode .... Karen Ward
"Bourbon Street Beat"
- Find My Face! (1960) TV Episode .... Grace Carvay
- The Taste of Ashes (1959) TV Episode .... Martha Delastone
"77 Sunset Strip"
- Created He Them (1960) TV Episode .... Claire Donaldson
- The Prettiest Dress in Goldfield (1959) TV Episode
- The Winnemucca Weskit (1958) TV Episode .... Millie
- Vertical (1958) TV Episode .... Beverly
- A Game of Hate (1958) TV Episode
- Ticket to Natchez (1958) TV Episode
- A Very Deadly Game (1958) TV Episode .... Angela
- Suspect Number One (1957) TV Episode
"The 20th Century-Fox Hour"
- Threat to a Happy Ending (1957) TV Episode .... Wilma Standish
"Science Fiction Theater"
- The Miracle Hour (1956) TV Episode .... Cathy Parker
- One Thousand Eyes (1956) TV Episode .... Ada March
- The Long Day (1955) TV Episode .... Laura Gilmore
- The Human Equation (1955) TV Episode .... Nan Guild
"Soldiers of Fortune"
- The Tattooed Lady (1956) TV Episode
- The Girl in the Jeep (1955) TV Episode
"Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers"
- The Regiment (1956) TV Episode .... Katherine Cheney
"My Friend Flicka"
- Big Red (1956) TV Episode
"TV Reader's Digest"
- Go Fight City Hall (1956) TV Episode
- Miss Victoria (1956) TV Episode .... Sally
- Six Hours of Surgery (1955) TV Episode .... Head Nurse
- The Old Lady's Tears (1956) TV Episode
- Rope Enough (1956) TV Episode .... Betty Madden
- The Last Day on Earth (1955) TV Episode .... Mary Carlyle
- Christmas Every Day (1954) TV Episode .... Helen
- The Plot Against Miss Pomeroy (1954) TV Episode .... Eunice Pomeroy
- Tantrum Size 12 (1956) TV Episode
- The Choice (1956) TV Episode
"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin"
- The Poor Little Rich Boy (1955) TV Episode .... Irene Larrimore
"The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse"
- The Boy with the Beautiful Mother (1955) TV Episode .... Teacher
- Live a Little (1954) TV Episode
- The Night Light at Vorden's (1953) TV Episode .... Vanessa Vorden
- Emergency (1955) TV Episode .... Mary
- The Betty Jane Ryan Story (1955) TV Episode .... Betty Jane Ryan
"Schlitz Playhouse of Stars"
- Hemmed In (1954) TV Episode
[thanks to the IMDb.com, the L.A. Times, and the official Patty Duke site]