Mary Tyler Moore lived 80 years but how do we sum up the life of Ms. Moore without really knowing her? I guess it can only be done by honoring our own experience, sharing research and recognizing the consciousness of her presence.
Some people, celebrity or not, become an influencer. They don’t necessarily set out to be influential but it happens as a result of doing what they do best. Mary Tyler Moore was one of those people.
Her career began through an interest in dance and acting. Starting at 17 years old with appearances in commercials she made her way up to landing roles in a list of TV series. She is best remembered for The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
For me, her influence was best felt through The Mary Tyler Moore Show. My mother used to watch it – I think everyone in our family did – but I really took to her character. She embodied what every girl and woman was striving for at the time. Her role inspired me to dream about all sorts of things like renting my own apartment one day, living by myself, having a good job and a strong voice when needed.
I remember an early episode where Mary stood up for herself to Lou and I thought, Wow, she’s got guts! Of course, it was played with comedy added but still a woman saying something so direct to a male boss? Wow! Even at my young age I knew enough to be impressed by Mary’s drive, compassion, friendships and barrier breaking position.
As an actress her comedy timing was perfect, facial expressions said it all, and she managed to strike a balance between the character’s small town innocence and her larger responsibilities. Of course, this was only a character she played but it meant something.
In real life Mary actively participated in raising awareness about diabetes and animal rights. She too had her struggles and overcame what she could but this made her a good embassador for causes.
If you want to see how much she positively impacted and inspired the life of someone you would have seen it when Mary made a surprise appearance on the Oprah Show. Oprah was a HUGE fan of Mary Tyler Moore and when her staff arranged for a surprise walk on to the stage Oprah broke into the ugly cry. I recall my own tears welling up as I knew Oprah was having a moment that many of us dream of having, the chance to meet the person who changed our world.
I have all the DVD’s of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I cherish them. From the iconic hat tossing opening, to the music that is so familiar. Each hilarious and touching moment of episode after episode I, like many of you, were invited into Mary’s world. Surrounded by an equally talented cast Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile. We are fortunate that she has the capacity to still do that as she is immortalized on screen.
This actress and inspiring woman leaves us a little better. What she chose to do with her life and craft made a difference and isn’t that worth celebrating.
May her family, friends and colleagues find comfort in so many wonderful memories she left behind.