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May 3, 1926 – June 1, 2014

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Emmy-winning actress Ann B. Davis, who became the country’s favorite and most famous housekeeper as the devoted Alice Nelson of “The Brady Bunch,” died Sunday at a San Antonio hospital. She was 88.

Bexar County, Texas, medical examiner’s investigator Sara Horne said Davis died Sunday morning at University Hospital. Horne said no cause of death was available and that an autopsy was planned today.

Bill Frey, a retired bishop and a longtime friend of Davis, said she suffered a fall Saturday at her San Antonio home and never recovered. Frey said Davis had lived with him and his wife, Barbara, since 1976.

Producer Sherwood Schwartz’s “The Brady Bunch” debuted in 1969 and aired for five years. But like Schwartz’s other hit, “Gilligan’s Island,” it has lived on in reruns and sequels.

As “The Brady Bunch” theme song reminded viewers each week, the Bradys combined two families into one. Florence Henderson played a widow raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed, a widower with three boys.

In her blue and white maid’s uniform, Davis’ character, Alice Nelson, was constantly cleaning up messes large and small, and she was a mainstay of stability for the Brady family. Davis’ face occupied the center square during the show’s opening credits.

“I’m shocked and saddened! I’ve lost a wonderful friend and colleague,” Henderson said in a statement Sunday.

“The Brady Bunch” had a successful run until 1974, but it didn’t die then. It returned as “The Brady Bunch Hour” (1977), “The Brady Brides” (1981) and “The Bradys” (1990). It even appeared as a Saturday morning spinoff (1972-1974).

“The Brady Bunch Movie,” with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as the parents, was a surprise box-office hit in 1995. It had another actress as Alice, but Davis appeared in a bit part as a trucker. It was followed the next year – without Davis – by a less successful “A Very Brady Sequel.”

Older TV viewers remember Davis for another non-glamorous role, on “The Bob Cummings Show,” also known as “Love That Bob.” She played Schultzy, the assistant to Cummings’ character, a photographer always chasing beautiful women. It brought Davis supporting actress Emmy Awards in 1958 and 1959.

She was born Ann Bradford Davis in Schenectady, N.Y., and grew up in Erie, Pa. She said she took to using her middle initial because “just plain Ann Davis goes by pretty fast.”

She was stage-struck since the age of 6 when she and her twin sister, Harriet, earned $2 with their puppet show. She attended the University of Michigan, joking that she was a premed student “until I discovered chemistry.”

She graduated in 1948 with a degree in theater and later joined a repertory theater in Erie, Pa. She told the Associated Press in 1993 that she got her big break while doing a cabaret act in Los Angeles, singing and telling jokes.

“Somebody said, ‘Get your agent to call the new Bob Cummings show. They’re looking for a funny lady.’ Within three hours I had the job. That was January 1955. I had such fun with that show.

“I did a couple of pilots that didn’t sell, a few movies and one year of nightclub work, which I hated. Then I did the pilot of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and never had to do another nightclub.”

For many years after “The Brady Bunch” wound up, Davis led a quiet religious life, affiliating herself with a group led by Frey.

Davis never married, saying she never found a man who was more interesting than her career. “By the time I started to get interested (in finding someone),” she told the Chicago Sun-Times, “all the good ones were taken.”