Once worked as a psychiatric nurse at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.
Took acting classes at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater.
While pursuing her dream of a career in acting, she worked as a painter, paperhanger, bartender and waitress.
Moved to Hollywood in her mid-50s to pursue her acting career.
First TV job was a small role on the sitcom Family Matters.
After the death of her West Wing character, White House presidential secretary Mrs. Landingham, the position was filled by Lily Tomlin. She and Tomlin went on to costar as sisters on Desperate Housewives.
Survived lung cancer twice before succumbing to the disease in June of 2012.