'Golden Girls' Bea Arthur dies at 86 of cancer

BeaArthur_Jeffr_15847796_600  Beatrice Arthur, the baritone-voiced actress most famous for the hit shows "Maude" and "The Golden Girls," died yesterday.

She was 86 and had fought a long battle against cancer, according to the Associated Press.

Arthur first appeared in "All in the Family" as Edith Bunker's outspoken cousin, Maude Finley. She was a liberal match for the blue-collar bigotry of Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and their political arguments were so funny Arthur's character spun off her own series.

"Maude" earned Arthur an Emmy Award for the role in 1977 and the character became a role model for the feminist movement. But after six years, she left the show and went on to play a similarly outspoken character in "Golden Girls" (1985-1992) a groundbreaking comedy about three retired women, played by Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty (she played Bea's cantankerous Italian mother), who all lived together in a Miami apartment.

Their antics made getting older look kinda fun. And funny.

The show was hugely popular and won 10 Emmy awards and continues to live in on popular re-runs.

Bea Arthur will always star in the reruns in our hearts.

Thanks for the memories and the laughter, Bea.

You were -- and always will be -- a classy broad.

Share your memories of Bea Arthur here. Read more about Bea in Tom O'Neil's Gold Derby blog.

Photo: Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White at the TV Land Awards in 2008.

Credits: WireImage