Just as I wept during the most moving storyline of the "Desperate Housewives" finale— the death of crusty, fearless, tell-it-like-it-is Karen McCluskey— tears fell Saturday upon learning the actress who portrayed her also had passed away. Less than three weeks after nosy neighbor Mrs. McCluskey succumbed to lung cancer on the series finale of "Desperate Housewives," Kathryn Joosten— the actress who won two Emmy Awards for portraying the television character— has died of the same disease at 72. Joosten, who was also known for playing the president's secretary in the TV series "The West Wing," died Saturday at her Westlake Village home, said her daughter-in-law, Jeremy Joosten. Because Joosten was an advocate for lung-cancer awareness and research, she agreed to the plot turn on "Housewives" that mirrored her off-screen life. "This will allow the public to much more comfortably talk about lung cancer," Joosten told The New York Post in February.
The most challenging aspect of the lung-cancer story arc, she said in another interview, was "working with the producers to make sure the material was true and accurate. They have been wonderful about that. "Secondly, I joke about this being a practice session, but there is a cathartic aspect to it," Joosten said in February. Last fall, she called herself a "two-time lung cancer survivor" in a first-person account of the disease that she wrote about for the Los Angeles Times. "My first was in 2001 and my second was in 2009, two completely different lung cancers, one on each side. I am the only 'celebrity' to be public about my lung cancer. So far, I am a cancer survivor, but cancer will be with me for the rest of my life, be it as a nodule, tumor or cell someplace, or in my fears and anxieties," she wrote. "Therefore I've decided that I am 'living with cancer."
On "Housewives" and "The West Wing," Joosten was known for making the most of her sometimes limited scenes, "delivering withering one-liners in her crazy/wise style," The Times said last year. She had played Karen McCluskey on the hit ABC show since 2005. Felicity Huffman, one of her "Housewives" costars, wrote Saturday on her Twitter account: "She was an amazing woman and a wonderful actress." Born December 20th, 1939, in Chicago, Joosten did not begin to pursue her "childhood dream" of acting until she was 42. She will always be in our hearts and minds as she lives on in syndication. And "Desperate Housewives" would never have been the same without her to pull us, along with the characters, back to reality. We had hoped the show would have made it to a 10th season... but now... we are fully aware that "Desperate Housewives" left the airwaves at precisely the right time... perhaps in honor of Mrs. McClusky, who instinctively knew when it was time to finally leave the party.