All My Children original cast member Mary Fickett (Ruth Martin) passed away in her home in Virginia on Thursday, September 8. She was 83.
In 1973, Mary Fickett, a native of Bronxville, New York, became the first performer in television history to receive an Emmy Award for their work on a daytime soap opera. Fickett's Emmy win was for one of many contemporary social issues explored on All My Children over the years. All My Children crafted a story that explored the feelings about the Vietnam War in small-town Pine Valley, Pennsylvania.
"Aggie [Agnes Nixon, All My Children's creator and then-head writer] wrote the storyline for me," Fickett recalled. "I felt very strongly about doing it. I stood up and said, 'I want to do this.' She said, 'Let's go with it.' She wanted only me to do it."
In the mid-1990s, Fickett decided to take a break from the rigors of acting on a soap opera. She had planned to appear on AMC on a recurring basis, but the show opted to recast the role. Fickett did return briefly to All My Children in 2000 before opting to permanently retire.
"We at ABC were very saddened to learn about the passing of one of All My Children's original cast members, Mary Fickett," ABC said in a statement. "As we honor All My Children's 41 years on ABC, we cannot help but recognize and remember Mary's wonderful depiction of Pine Valley's revered Ruth. Ruth's marriage to chief of staff Dr. Joe Martin provided the bedrock upon which the town of Pine Valley was built. Their marriage was always a stabilizing force that represented 'home' for many."
Though she will forever be known as Ruth Martin, Fickett did appear in numerous other television programs before settling in Pine Valley. She appeared on The Edge of Night in 1961 as Sally Smith, and returned to the show six years later in a totally different role -- Dr. Katherine Lovell.
Fickett made her first appearance on Broadway in 1949's I Know My Love. In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony for her role as Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello.
Sadly, many of Fickett's All My Children memories were taken from her. A fire in 2007 destroyed many of Fickett's personal mementos, including photographs, letters, and countless other memories. Fickett was confined to her bed for the past several years, but the actress still fondly recalled her life as a television star.
In 1979, Mary Fickett married soap opera director Allen Fristoe. Fristoe died in 2008. Fickett was married two previous times. Those marriages, to James R.W. Congdon and Jay Leonard Scheer, ended in divorce.
Fickett is survived by her daughter, Bronwyn "Anne" Congdon, and her husband, Michael Filipovic; her son, Kenyon Congdon, and his wife, Tamara; her grandchildren by Bronwyn Brittany Stewart Congdon, Caitlin Congdon, Dylan Farinet, Zachary Filipovic, and Kiley Anne Filipovic; her grandchildren by Kenyon, Casey Congdon, Morgan Congdon, and Alex Congdon; and her great-grandchildren: Haylie Congdon Mitchell and Melisande Congdon Mitchell.
ABC has said it will dedicate the September 21 episode to Fickett. The series will air its final episode just two days later.
Services will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Richmond Chapter, 4600 Cox Road #130, Glen Allen, VA 23060.