What an honor. During the season 28 premiere of Dancing With the Stars, the reality TV dancing competition revealed the heartwarming tribute for late actress Valerie Harper. As the show came to an end on Monday, September 16, a large star on the ballroom floor with her name etched in the middle appeared on the screen.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show actress’ sweet memento included an image of the Mirrorball Trophy and “Season 17,” a reference for when she competed on the beloved TV show. Valerie’s star appeared next to another DWTS tribute for late Brady Bunch actress Florence Henderson, who competed alongside Corky Ballas on season 11 before her death in November 2016.
Valerie, who was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, joined the cast as a celebrity dancer in 2013. Months prior to competing on the show, the Rhoda actress was given three months to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. Later that year, she defied her doctor’s odds and competed on DWTS with partner Tristan MacManus.
As Closer readers know, the iconic actress sadly passed away at age 80 on August 30. “My dad has asked me to pass on this message,” Valerie’s daughter, Cristina Cacciotti, wrote on Twitter as she confirmed the news of her mom’s death on behalf of her dad, Tony Cacciotti. “‘My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer. She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. -Anthony,'” the message read.
Prior to Valerie’s passing, Tony opened up about caring for his cancer-stricken wife and revealed how difficult it is to come to terms with her incurable disease.
“I have been told by doctors to put Val in Hospice care and I can’t [because of our 40 years of shared commitment to each other] and I won’t because of the amazing good deeds she has graced us with while she’s been here on earth,” The Longest Yard actor admitted in a candid Facebook post on his wife’s account. He also started a GoFundMe campaign in mid-July to help raise money to pay for her treatments and other medical costs.
Even though cancer is something no one should have to experience, Tony confessed that the longtime battle made their time together that much more special. “Our marriage has deepened,” he exclusively told Closer Weekly in July. “We have an extraordinarily strong friendship [and] that’s the foundation of our union.”
We bet we aren’t the only ones touched by DWTS‘ sweet tribute for Valerie!