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

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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.”

Comments (119)

  • Een geweldig actrice is niet meer.

    Comment by rika – June 2, 2012 03:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love Dh Because of my late girlfriend Emma, rest in peace Kathryn, you were a tough cookie in life I expect , with all the charm to boot!! Just as your character , much love from here to the sky. Farewell till one day.. X

    Comment by ChrisBollardMancEngland – June 2, 2012 03:23 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • i always enjoyed her, may she rest in peace, so sorry to the family

    Comment by louise – June 2, 2012 03:31 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sad new about Kathryn Joosten. May she rest in peace. Mrs. McKluskey was always entertaining. Loved her. I’m happy the show ended the way it did in the finale with Bree staying behind on Wisteria Lane to take care of her.

    Comment by Danielle Z – June 2, 2012 03:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • A star who came up thru the ranks of bit parts and small roles but trudging along enjoying her craft. She gave us her gift of an interesting character portrayal each and every time.

    Comment by Jim Cullen – June 2, 2012 03:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I hope they play “Wonderful, Wonderful” at her funeral.

    Comment by Linn – June 2, 2012 04:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She will truly be remembered.

    Comment by Juan – June 2, 2012 04:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Not Mrs. Landingod! This sucks!

    Comment by BTM – June 2, 2012 04:20 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So, so sad to hear this. Loved her in DH. May she RIP.

    Comment by Sam – June 2, 2012 04:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is so shocking anyway I hope she finds peace she was so great as Ms. McKluskey

    Comment by JC – June 2, 2012 04:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • How eerie. I loved her as McKluskey, she was such an entertaining character on “Desperate Housewives”. What a shame, I’m so sorry to hear this news. Rest in peace, Mrs. Joosten.

    Comment by Angela – June 2, 2012 05:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • A wonderful and memorable performer. Sorry to hear of her passing, but I’m grateful that she was able to finish out her run on “Desperate Housewives” and get the sendoff she so richly deserved.

    Comment by Chrispy – June 2, 2012 05:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Will always remember her appearance in Scrubs’ first season episode four ‘My Old Lady’. One of the few times I have been moved by a TV comedy.

    Comment by foodiepop – June 2, 2012 05:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is a very sad news. I loved Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives.

    Comment by Bower – June 2, 2012 06:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Aww, RIP talented Sweetheart. From the above article prior to its updating, there was mention of Marc Cherry promising that her character would never be killed off, yet Mrs. McKluskey was indeed killed off in the DH series finale. Can we read that as a testament of that man’s true character?

    Comment by april-ann – June 2, 2012 07:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I met this lovely lady once at an AIDS fundraising event. She was in remission at the time. Though I have no great fondness for Marc Cherry I’d like to think that since she came out of remission last year Marc (with her permission) played out Mrs. McCluskey’s dying (bravely and on her own terms) did this as a tribute to Kathryn.

      Comment by Marc A. – June 3, 2012 06:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • It may have added something quite moving to the finale, but in my opinion to kill off a character before its dying portrayer has passed is in bad taste. And apparently he made the promise to HER, not just a spoken generality. A promise is a promise, should be anyway. So I guess my issue with Marc Cherry’s “tribute” is two-fold.

        Comment by april-ann – June 3, 2012 08:00 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • “Tell Leo I love him.”

    …And now I’m crying….

    Comment by aleksa – June 2, 2012 07:26 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She was on General Hospital as well, but of course It’s overlooked.

    Comment by sean – June 2, 2012 07:30 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Tragic news. She always popped up on the shows I watched, I loved all of her characters, although I never watched the West Wing.
    Rest in peace, Kathryn.

    Comment by Lauren – June 2, 2012 07:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I usually don’t comment too much on these sites, but wanted to express my condolences. Kathryn was an exceptional actress and was a joy to watch in anything. She will be missed.

    Comment by JC – June 2, 2012 07:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Some more comments from her cast mates…

    Kevin Rahm ‏
    RIP Kathryn Joosten. My thoughts go out to her family. She will be missed.

    Charlie Carver
    I’m so sorry to hear that @kathrynjoosten has passed. She was a grandmother to me with her salty kindness and generosity of spirit. RIP.

    Shawn Pyfrom
    I’m so broken up about Kathy Joosten. Just the best woman. I miss you…

    Brenda Strong
    To the memory of an extraordinary woman, actress and friend. Rest in Peace Kathryn Joosten.Wisteria Lane won’t be the same without you.

    Comment by Shane Saunders (@ShaneSSaunders) – June 2, 2012 08:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very weird reading this after watching her death scene a few weeks ago on Desperate Housewives. R.I.P. Kathryn Joosten – a great character actress and I will never forget her as Mrs.Landingham. I first remember seeing her on Monk and still remember her scenes to this day.

    Comment by Daniel – June 2, 2012 08:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • You forgot the sweet tweet from Madison De La Garza, (@maddielovesyou1) aka Juanita Solis, saying she couldn’t believe and she loved her so much :’(

    Comment by Barbie – June 2, 2012 09:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Having wept copiously at the loss of Mrs. Landingham, and then again at the loss of Karen McCluskey, I will choose to remember this lovely and talented actress in her role on Joan of Arcadia, God, who (Nietzsche notwithstanding) will never die. ((I understand that the scripts referred to her character as “God (Mrs. Landingham)”.)) We love you, in all your incarnations!

    Comment by Agnes (doci) (@doci) – June 2, 2012 09:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This woman was awesome!

    Comment by alé – June 2, 2012 09:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The West Wing was never the same after she left. Very sad news.

    Comment by bobby – June 2, 2012 10:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May her soul rest in peace!

    Comment by Henry – June 2, 2012 10:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is sad news, I loved seeing her in all the shows through the years. She made everything she was in that much better.

    Comment by Scott – June 2, 2012 10:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP <3

    Comment by Erika – June 2, 2012 10:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rest in piece. You leave behind an incredible body of work in television with guest appearances and character arcs on hundreds of shows. You will be missed, but your talent lives on in reruns.

    Comment by tvdiva – June 2, 2012 10:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • SO sad to hear that, she was an amazing actress!!

    Comment by Line – June 2, 2012 11:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh no! Sad! Loved her acting on “Desperate Housewives”! R.I.P!!!

    Comment by Yutaka – June 3, 2012 12:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ve read heartfelt comments about her passing form but 1 housewife.
    Wanna guess which one?

    Comment by Keenan – June 3, 2012 01:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Song is “Johnny Mathis – Wonderful Wonderful”

    Comment by Rain – June 3, 2012 07:04 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh, God. I can’t believe this. She was incredible. Rest in Peace, Kathryn.

    Comment by May – June 3, 2012 07:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m going to start watching The West Wing in her honor.
    Rest in peace, Kathryn Joosten.

    Comment by Sarabi – June 3, 2012 08:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Kathryn joosten was funny not just that5 she was a gremmy wi8ntoer we are going to miss you link…. may bock

    Comment by jaybastien – June 3, 2012 10:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad,4 a raregem like her to go dat way.RIP.u wil always be remembered.

    Comment by susan – June 3, 2012 01:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • What a wonderful lady who was so willing to describe everything so candidly. She was such a fighter for lung cancer awareness and I will never forget having dinner with her in Dallas with other lung cancer advocates. When a bug flew into my wine glass, she said, “Oh, for God’s sake, drink it; it’s protein!”

    Comment by Judy Sweet – June 3, 2012 02:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • well we will all die someday, but she was one graceful lady i always love to see on desperate housewives. my condolence to her family..RIP.

    Comment by pearl – June 3, 2012 02:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Uh ho…..President Bartlet is going to be pissed!!

    (RIP Mrs. Landingham)

    Comment by Matt – June 3, 2012 03:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She was wonderful!

    Comment by rubytu – June 3, 2012 05:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Yes Lung Cancer is a serious Killer,hopefully now people will start to understand that every cigarette could be your last,it’s a practice that you can’t do forever,there’s no such thing as a little smoke or whatever slang people use these days to advocate smoking,it’s not social, it’s very,very dangerous and these cigarette companies need to go out of business for everybody’s sake,enough is enough already,I’m pretty sure you can find other ways to make a dollar.

    Comment by Ahmadu Wachuku Jr. – June 4, 2012 01:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • R.I.P

    Comment by Annie – June 4, 2012 05:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved her as Vals mah on knots. great lady

    Comment by Jab – June 4, 2012 11:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Thank you Kathryn for many years of entertainment. You will be missed. RIP :(

    Comment by Melly – June 5, 2012 08:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am so sad & sorry at Kathryn’s passing. She followed her dream, an inspiration to all. I first met her when she started herLA career & she stayed true to herself & the advice she shared with me & others.

    Comment by Roberta Bassin – June 5, 2012 12:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am deeply saddened to have lost you. God Bless You Kathryn. You were a real treasure !

    Comment by – June 5, 2012 05:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Just found out about this. She will always live on as one of my favorite actresses. Her and Betty White are the best out there. RIP Mrs. Joosten

    Comment by Aaron Tily – June 16, 2012 08:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 这里没有中国人吗…想看看不懂…

    Comment by jessica – February 16, 2013 06:05 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
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    Comment by Buford – March 21, 2013 07:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

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