Desperate Housewives' Kathryn Joosten Dies at 72, Following Battle With Cancer

Kathryn Joosten DeadEmmy winner Kathryn Joosten, whose emotional death scene as Karen McCluskey gave Desperate Housewives‘ recent series finale its biggest emotional punch, died on Friday of lung cancer in Westlake Village, CA. She was 72.

Joosten won her Emmys in 2005 and 2008 in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for her portrayal of Wisteria Lane’s crankiest (but still loveable) resident.

RELATED | Desperate Housewives Series Finale Recap: A Trial, Then Tribulations

Prior to her Housewives success, Joosten was best known for playing Mrs. Landingham, secretary to Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet, on The West Wing.

She also had roles on such shows as Scrubs, My Name Is Earl, Joan of Arcadia, and Dharma & Greg.

Joosten, who didn’t begin her acting career until she was 42, famously told interviewers through the years that Housewives‘ creator Marc Cherry had promised never to kill off Mrs. McCluskey, seeing how many of her prior characters hadn’t survived to their shows’ series finales.

According to her rep, Joosten was surrounded by family at the time of her death.

UPDATE: As news spread of Joosten’s passing, castmates recent and from the past, as well as peers, shared condolences via Twitter. Among them:

Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives): “Thank you Kathryn. For your courage, your humor, your fight and your talent. We were so lucky to have you.”

Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives): “All my prayers and love to Kathryn Joosten’s family. Rest in peace, she was an amazing woman and a wonderful actress.”

Rob Lowe (The West Wing, now of Parks and Recreation): “Goodbye Kathryn; our beloved Mrs Landingham. You will never truly be gone, film is forever. Tell Leo [played by the late John Spencer] I love him.”

Dule Hill (The West Wing, now of Psych): “Saddened about the passing of Kathryn Joosten. It was an honor to work with you and an even greater honor knowing you, Kathryn.”

Tim Matheson (The West Wing, now of Hart of Dixie): “Goodnight Mrs. Landingham, wherever you are . . . . Kathryn Joosten enriched all who knew her!”

Emmy Rossum (Shameless): “So sad to read that actress Kathryn Joosten passed away. Mrs. Landingham from The West Wing is one of my all time favorite TV characters.”

Yvette Nicole Brown (Community): “I am heartbroken by the loss of my friend. … Kathryn Joosten taught me SO much about the business. She was funny, fun & TOUGH and I loved her to pieces!”

Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory creator): “Kathryn Joosten recurred on Dharma & Greg when I worked there. She was a truly lovely lady.”

Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy creator): “Very sad about the death of Kathryn Joosten. She was on [Grey’s] in Season 1, but she’ll always be Mrs. Landingham on West Wing for me.”

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  1. Martina says:

    She was great as Mrs McCluskey, but she’ll always be Mrs Landingham to me, she was excellent in The West Wing. RIP

  2. aleksa says:

    Ugh, lame! Loved her.

  3. Paul Rose Jr says:

    This is NOT how I want art to reflect life.

  4. Andrew says:

    awwww, awesome chick

  5. Bobbi says:

    I’m glad she got to finish out the run of the show on her terms. Really enjoyed her work. Rest in peace, Ms. Joosten.

  6. Chad Cookler says:

    Wow. Art imitating life. RIP Ms. Mclusky

  7. Eduardo says:

    OMG!!! she will be missed!!

  8. nicky says:

    She was such a great actress. I loved how she managed to portray a character that was both obnoxiously rude and charminly loveable at the same time. Few would have been able to do it like her.

  9. Natalie says:

    I know she was a great character actor in a variety of things but I agree she will always be Mrs. Landingham. My condolences to her family. Such a great story of a woman who began acting later in life.

  10. Leigheden says:

    RIP Mrs Landingham

  11. liliana says:

    i am very sad! Rip Ms. Mclusky!

  12. Megan says:

    I’ll always remember her as Old Lady God from Joan of Arcadia. This is so sad.

  13. Annie says:

    I am so stunned! Last I heard she was doing pretty well against it … I am so heartbroken. Loved her, in everything she ever did. Rest in peace, sweet lady.

  14. Lil says:

    So sad to hear about this :((

  15. Seb says:

    I loved her many well known roles but her role in possibly one of the best episodes of Scrubs reflects on me at this moment, she brought such believeability to facing death knowing you’ve lived life to its fullest hopefully that reflects her own life. RIP.

    • Sal says:

      That was an excellent episode, she was so great in it. It’s also amazing that a few years later, working in the health care field myself, I’ve met people like her character on Scrubs, it’s truly amazing. RIP Kathryn.

  16. Lauren says:

    She always made me smile on Joan of Arcadia. Old Lady God was the best. May she rest peacefully.

  17. Columbus says:

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I thought that she was winning the war. RIP

  18. Juan says:

    Nooo, this is so sad, this is horrible I will miss her. R.I.P.

  19. I am gonna miss her legendary eye rolling as Mrs McKluskey! She was sublime! Love her! RIP

  20. Mitholas says:

    That’s so sad. I thought she was one of DH’s absolute highlights, despite not being part of the “core cast”. I hope she wasn’t in too much pain before she passed.

  21. Lana says:

    RIP Mrs Landingham. You will be missed.

  22. Evan says:

    Condolences to her family

  23. CJ says:

    I loved her so much on the West Wing, and her character is one I will never forget. Her episode of Scrubs is where I really fell in love with the show. Such an incredibly moving episode which showed the depth and heart of the show, without losing its comedic edge. She was a wonderful lady and will be missed.

  24. Cheryl says:

    R.I.P karen mcklusky x

  25. quinn says:

    How ironic, in view of her storyline toward the finale … and very sad.

  26. Camilla says:

    Oh… I truly liked her role in DH, Scrubs and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was a great actress.

  27. greysfan says:

    So sad to hear about this. RIP Kathryn. :(

  28. Judy says:

    I met her on the set of DH- she was so very nice and friendly. A classy lady and wonderful and talented actress.

  29. stalim says:

    May her soul rest in eternal peace.

  30. Samunto says:

    I loved her to bits in ‘Housewives’. RIP Mrs. McKluskey. You’ll forever be remembered and you’re the only one who could handle those Scavo kids!

  31. Jake says:

    Wow, I am shocked and saddened

  32. WSPB says:

    My heart breaks for her family. I lost both my parents to Lung Cancer (3 months apart) and it is a horrible awful way to go :(

  33. kate says:

    RIP Mrs. Landingham. <3

  34. So sorry to hear this. Was a fine lady I think

  35. llws88 says:

    WOW I had no idea she had cancer in real life. That’s so unfortunate….she was always great on DH…may her soul R.I.P

  36. Khadijah Muye says:

    She was that no-nonsense woman I knew and shall ever be Mckluskey from DH.. My condolence to her fam:):):)

  37. Jason says:

    Wonderful actress. One of my favorites on Desperate Housewives. May this sweet soul rest in peace. She is a treasure.

  38. Greg says:

    Kathryn Joosten Rest In Peace, enjoyed your body of work, my condolences to her family.

  39. Pat D. says:

    Man, I didnt even know she actually had cancer. What a shame. RIP.

  40. JR says:

    A class act and a very special human being, Kathryn was loved and admired, not just for the roles she played on TV. She was outrageously funny, 100% authentic, and completely wonderful. An inspirational woman, who will be greatly missed.

  41. Topy says:

    I’m very sad, she was a sweet, sweet old lady, i adored her!!! Plase God have her by ur side.
    Rest in peace.

  42. suchet.frm nigeria says:

    Gosh,am really sad,she played out her death scene dat was to be real,always wil b mrs mckluskey,she spiced up karen

  43. Rolfe says:

    Very sad news. Thank you, Kathryn for bringing fans years of joy.

  44. Mikaylah says:

    I absolutely loved her as Mrs. Landingham. RIP.

  45. Sad to hear of actress Kathryn Joosten’s passing today. But I had a hysterically funny experience with her as a guest on Mr. Media in October 2010 as we talked about her career on Desperate Housewives, The West Wing and, oh yeah, Helen Mirren’s exposed breasts in New York magazine. Please enjoy and remember this delightful lady!

  46. @pn9400 says:

    May ur soul R.I .P:(

  47. @pn9400 says:

    May ur soul R.I.P:(

  48. Allyson says:

    May she rest in peace! I enjoyed her when she guest starred on Gilmore Girls as Maisy, on “Written in the Stars”.

  49. Irma says:

    WOW can’t believe she is gone she was a great actress an will be missed dearly…thanks for the great memories on desperate housewives r.i.p