Mary Pat Gleason died Tuesday night at the age of 70 after a battle with cancer. Her death was confirmed through the post of a friend, Ron Fassler.
Fassler is an author, playwright, director and actor and was a close friend of Gleason. He wrote a heartfelt tribute to his late friend and posted it on Facebook, where it has been read hundreds of times.
“Mary Pat Gleason, one of the dearest and sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure to know, passed away last night at age seventy,” he wrote. “She has 174 credits on her IMDB page (with one unreleased film still to come), but she was so much more than a wonderful actress: she was one of a kind.”
“So caring, so funny, and so delicious to be around, that I find it hard to imagine a world without her shining presence and smiling face. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved her (all one million of you). Let’s all raise a glass to her this evening as one and offer a final toast and a fond farewell in her memory.”
Gleason was born on Feb. 23, 1950 in Lake City, Minnesota. She began acting in 1982 in an NBC soap called “Texas.” She later appeared on many television shows and had parts in many movies.
More recently, she played Mary, a colorful character in “Mom,” though she has also appeared in “The Black List,” “Will & Grace,” “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
She was also well known for her role in “A Cinderella Story” and winning an Emmy in 1986 when she was part of the writing team for “Guiding Light.”
Fassler’s post evoked many responses from people who knew her well. Some of them shared their favorite memories of her.
“I remember MaryPat from grade school,” Mark Anthony Selner wrote. “She always was someone who was looking out for you. She was a very special person. May she rest in peace.”
“I knew her oh so many years ago when she co-owned a wonderful ice cream store on 9th Avenue around the corner from my office-Burnham-Callaghan Associates,” Jacqueline Burnham Kurta commented. “What a kind and gentle person.”
“I’ve known Mary Pat since 1973,” Michael Laskin added. “Simply the best – as a person, as an artist. No one has a bad word to say about her. Deeply kind and funny. She’ll be greatly missed by all…..RIP, MP.”
According to Fassler’s own responses to comments, Gleason was often confused with another actress, Mary-Pat Green. The reason is pretty obvious, but he had a funny story to share about one of the mix-ups.
“You are thinking of Mary-Pat Green (who was in that CANDIDE) and for whom Mary Pat Gleason was often mistaken,” he wrote in response to someone who mistook her for the other Mary-Pat. “The most famous story of which was when [composer Stephen] Sondheim asked for her specifically to audition for SWEENEY, and Mary Pat Gleason got the call instead.”
“It’s a long story, but the best line is when she walked in the room and Sondheim said, ‘You’re not Mary Pat Gleason!’ to which Mary Pat said, ‘Oh, I think I am.’”
Gleason’s last days were not spent alone, thankfully, as a family stepped up to offer her care and solace. Fassler wrote in the comments that “[i]t was their devotion that made her final few weeks both bearable and beautiful.”
What a lovely tribute to a woman with an impressive amount of talent and — based on all the rave reviews of her character — a heart of gold.
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