Beloved ‘The Brady Bunch’ actress whose singing became a staple of the pre-Indianapolis 500 build-up, has died of heart failure in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Florence Henderson, who was in attendance at the Dancing with the Stars finale on Monday as IndyCar racer James Hinchcliffe performed, died Thursday night. According to her publicist, she passed surrounded by family and friends, after being hospitalized the day before.
Henderson, who herself was once a contestant on DWTS, and who as recently as this year had been shooting an action-comedy (due to be released in 2017) with Judge Reinhold and Pam Grier, was taken to the nation’s hearts as Carol Brady, the mom from The Brady Bunch.
But it was as a fine singer of “God bless America” and “America the beautiful” during the pre-race ceremonies at the Indy 500 that Henderson became a firm favorite with race fans. She performed a total of 23 times on Memorial Day Weekend at the Speedway, and such was the status of the Dale, Indiana native among the IMS faithful that she served as Grand Marshal for this year’s 100th running of the “500”.
Mari Hulman George, chairperson of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman & Co. from 1977 to 2016, said: “In a lifetime around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there are few friendships as special as the friendship that I have had with Florence Henderson.
“She was a wonderful lady who cared deeply for the traditions that have made the Indianapolis 500 so special and a highlight for me each year is spending time with Florence on race weekends! Our family loved her dearly and she will always be considered a member of our family.
IMS president Doug Boles added: “Florence Henderson had an amazing impact on generations of Americans through her platform as an actress and an even more profound impact on Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans through her passion for and contribution to those special moments leading up the command to start engines at the Indianapolis 500.
“Our fans looked forward to seeing her on Race Day each year and her pre-race involvement became one of the expected annual traditions that makes the Indianapolis 500 so powerful. This past year, we were pleased to have honored her as the Grand Marshal for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. More importantly, Florence Henderson was a treasured friend of the Hulman-George family for many years and the bond between them was as strong as family.
“We thank her for her friendship and love for our sport and her friends and family will be in our prayers. She was a lovely lady and she will be missed.”
Henderson’s passing means that within the space of three years, IMS has lost two of its treasured pre-500 performers. Actor Jim Nabors performed his last rendition of “Back home again in Indiana” in 2014.
Motorsport.com sends its condolences to all who knew and loved Florence Henderson.