Hersha Parady, 'Little House on the Prairie' actor who played teacher Alice Garvey, dies at 78

Hersha Parady in character as teacher Alice Garvey on 'Little House on the Prairie.'
Hersha Parady, who starred as Walnut Grove schoolteacher Alice Garvey on "Little House on the Prairie," has died. She was 78. (NBC / Getty Images)

Hersha Parady, who starred as Walnut Grove schoolteacher Alice Garvey on “Little House on the Prairie,” has died. She was 78.

Parady died Wednesday night in Norfolk, Va., at the home of her son, Jonathan Peverall, who confirmed her death via the GoFundMe page he launched in July to improve her quality of life in her final days.

“Last night at the age of 78, she left us, and is now at peace,” Peverall wrote. “My mother was a talented actor, but more importantly a beloved presence in many hearts — more than I had ever realized. I have been consistently astonished by the number of people that have expressed to me her impact on their lives.”

He added, “Despite what I could only describe as her being 'difficult' at times, she was the best mother. She was also a doting grandmother, and her three grandchildren, who brought immense joy to her life, will miss her dearly.”

Peverall said his mother had fought a courageous battle against a challenging medical condition, a meningioma, and “even in her struggle, she continued to inspire us with her strength and resilience.

“At one point, a doctor expressed to me her surprise that she had stayed with us for this long, given her condition; I said, ‘If you knew my Mom, you wouldn’t be surprised.’”

According to "NCIS" producer Jill Weinberger, who was the actor’s longtime next-door neighbor and close friend, Parady successfully came through surgery to partially remove her brain tumor, but was transferred to a rehab facility, where she developed pneumonia. After several weeks in the ICU, she died.

“Though the last couple of years were tough for her, she never stopped emitting light and laughter, and between her friends and her fans, I know she touched literally thousands of lives and brought so many people so much joy,” Weinberger wrote on Facebook.

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Parady portrayed Alice Garvey on the Michael Landon-created “Little House on the Prairie” for 33 episodes, beginning in the series' Season 4 premiere episode, “Castoffs,” in September 1977.

In her final episode, “May We Make Them Proud,” which aired as a two-hour episode in 1980, her character attempted to save blind children from a burning building and ultimately succumbed to the flames.

Parady was born Betty Sandhoff on May 25, 1945, in Berea, Ohio. She renamed herself “Hershey” after the chocolate bar, although she didn’t have a sweet tooth — she just loved the name. Her agent changed it to Hersha.

In a 2019 interview with “The Little House on the Prairie Podcast,” the actor said she had been poised for stardom since childhood.

“Instead of playing dolls, I was either on my bike riding down streets I wasn't supposed to go down, and when I couldn't do that, I was pretending. As soon as I could walk, I was downstairs in my basement being a movie star or a damsel in distress.”

Parady graduated from Berea High School in 1963 and — despite her grandparents' disapproval — moved to the city to pursue her dreams. “My mother always said that I put my grandparents in their grave because I left high school and went immediately to the Cleveland Play House, and into an apartment during the 1960s in the ghetto,” she said. “And I was living by myself. And it was dangerous.”

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In the 1970s, she packed her bags for Los Angeles, where she nabbed the role of Stella opposite Jon Voight in a touring production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Parady splashed onto the small screen in 1971 on an episode of “Bearcats!” and over the next few years landed roles in episodes of "Mannix" and "The Waltons." In 1976, she landed “Little House on the Prairie,” then moved on to film with “Raw Courage” (1984), “Hyper Sapien: People From Another Star” (1986) and “The Break” (1995).

Parady was married to British film producer and director John Peverall, who shared the best picture Oscar in 1979 for “The Deer Hunter.” Together, they traveled to India, Thailand and Africa for Peverall’s various projects. They lived for a year in India.

At 74, Parady said, “I've always felt young and full of spit and vinegar and I still am.”

In addition to her son, survivors include her siblings, Patty, Kenny and Bobby.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.