“In memoriam, the network will dedicate the September 21 episode … which focuses on the Martins,” says a statement from ABC.
Fickett originated the role of nurse Ruth Parker Brent, who at the time of the show’s 1970 debut was married to alcoholic car salesman Ted Brent. After Ted perished in (irony alert!) a car accident, Ruth grew closer to widower Dr. Joe Martin, and the two eventually wed.
In 1973, Fickett earned one of the first-ever Emmys for individual achievement in acting, coming off a storyline in which Ruth protested her son Phil being drafted into the Vietnam War.
In 1996, after Fickett expressed a desire to reduce her workload, she was replaced by onetime Miss America winner Lee Meriwether, but she would return in later years to occasionally reprise the role of Ruth, until her formal retirement from acting.
“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,” says ABC’s statement. “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…. We extend our deepest sympathy and thoughts to Mary’s family and longtime fans.”
AMC airs its broadcast finale on Sept. 23. SOAPnet has a special marathon of classic episodes airing this coming weekend.