New Castle News

June 7, 2014

Television Memories: ‘Brady Bunch’ housekeeper visited church here

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Those who met the late Ann B. Davis when she visited New Castle 24 years ago remember her as authentic.

“She pulled up in a red convertible sports car,” said the Rev. Fred Gilbert of the Independent Methodist Church, where the beloved television personality was a guest speaker on Sept. 8, 1990. “When she got out of the car, she looked like her character, from the  hairdo to clothes, she was Alice, the housekeeper for ‘the Brady Bunch.’ ”

Davis died Sunday at the age of 88 in San Antonio, Tex.

“She was very pleasant and upbeat,” said Gilbert, who invited the Emmy-winning actress to speak during the second anniversary of the church, which is located at 1921 New Butler Road. “She told us about her life as a born-again Christian.”

Gilbert said Davis was a spokeswoman for the conservative movement in the Episcopal Church. Davis was accompanied by Episcopal Bishop Bill Frey and his wife, Barbara. A native of Erie, Davis had lived with the Freys since 1976. Frey said Davis became part of his and his wife’s “household community” after she re-embraced her Christian faith and left Hollywood behind.

After the service, Gilbert said Davis stayed around to sign autographs and speak with fans.

Judy Maggie was glad she decided to attend. “She was just so nice to everybody,” recalled Maggie, who left with autographs for her and her daughter.

Gilbert said Davis told him that writers of the series would sometime follow her around. “When they found things amusing, they would write them into the script,” she said.

Ironically, Ann Davis Long was the lay leader for that service. She sat with her namesake during the service

“What you saw on television is exactly how she was, very straight-forward, kind and nice,” Long said. “Just like her character on television.

Long said they talked downstairs before the service and laughed about their names. “Spending time with her was just a lot of fun,” she said.

Long recalled there was some negative publicity going around about the other actors on “The Brady Bunch” at that time and she asked Davis about it. Long said that Davis regarded them as “family, and they were just like other people who have problems. You could tell she really loved them.”

Long said that Davis felt bad that people were “making a big thing about it.”

Gilbert said Davis made a return visit to church in 1991, accompanying Frey, who had come to speak.

More than a decade before scoring as the Bradys’ loyal Alice, Davis was the razor-tongued secretary on another stalwart TV sitcom, “The Bob Cummings Show,” which brought her two Emmys. Over the years, she also appeared on Broadway and in occasional movies.

“The Brady Bunch” debuted in 1969 and aired for five years, although it lives in immortality with reruns and films that have followed.

 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 family.

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

Davis will long be remembered by her devoted fans, including many she met in New Castle in 1990.