Marcia Karen Wallace was an American actress and comedian, best known for her roles as receptionist Carol Kester on the 1970s sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show" and as the voice of school teacher Edna Krabappel on "The Simpsons," for which she won an Emmy in 1992.
Best known for her tall frame, red hair, and distinctive laugh, she was born on November 1, 1942 in Creston, Iowa, the eldest of three children of Arthur "Poke" Wallace and his wife, Joann. Her father owned and operated "Wallace Sundries", a general merchandise store, where Marcia and her siblings would often help out. Although interested in journalism, Wallace had been encouraged by a teacher to consider a career in acting after she did well in a school play. Following graduation from Creston High School, Wallace attended Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, which had offered her a full scholarship. She majored in English and Theater, performing in such productions as "Brigadoon" and "The Music Man."
After college, Wallace moved to New York City to pursue acting, often working as a typist and substitute English teacher in the Bronx while performing in summer stock and commercials. After performing for a year in a Greenwich Village nightclub, Wallace formed "The Fourth Wall," an improv group, with four fellow entertainer friends. She starred in several shows including "Dark of the Moon" at the avant-garde Mercer Arts Center.
Wallace was eventually hired as a semi-regular performer on "The Merv Griffin Show," appearing over 75 times on the show before accepting the role of Carol Kester, the sarcastic receptionist on "The Bob Newhart Show." After the series ended, she made three decades of television appearances as a game-show panelist on television game shows such as "Match Game," "Hollywood Squares, Password Plus and Super Password, Celebrity Whew!, Crosswits," "The $25,000 Pyramid," "Double Talk," "Win, Lose or Draw," "To Tell the Truth" and special celebrity versions of "Family Feud" and "Card Sharks" among others.
In addition to game shows, Wallace made intermittent TV show appearances on "Bewitched," "The Brady Bunch," "Taxi," "Charles In Charge," "Murder, She Wrote," "Magnum, P.I.," "Columbo," "A Different World," "Alf," "Full House" and "Murphy Brown" where she reprised her Carol Kester role. In 1989, Wallace joined the cast of the iconic animated series, "The Simposons," as the voice of Edna Krabappel, the school teacher of Bart Simpson. In 1992, she received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for her work in the series. In film, she appeared in such features as "My Mother the Werewolf," "Teen Witch," "Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College" and "Tru Loved."
In 1986, Wallace married hotelier Dennis Hawley on May 18, 1986, in a Buddhist ceremony. The two of them later adopting an infant son, Michael Wallace "Mikey" Hawley. Che continued to act, performing in plays both on and off Broadway including "An Almost Perfect Person," a female version of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," "Same Time, Next Year," "Twigs," "It Had to Be You," "Prisoner of Second Avenue" and "Plaza Suite." She made her musical stage debut in the Sacramento Music Circus production of "Gypsy" in 1983. Other stage productions include "Promises, Promises," "Born Yesterday," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," "Steel Magnolias" and "Last of the Red Hot Lovers." In 2013, she voiced the librarian in the animated feature film, "Monsters University."
On January 27, 2007, Wallace won the Gilda Radner Courage Award from Roswell Park Cancer Institute for helping educate Americans about the importance of early cancer detection and inspiring others through her 20 years as a breast cancer survivor. Her autobiography, Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way, was published in 2004, recounting the early detection of her breast cancer, the loss of her husband Dennis to cancer in 1992, her nervous breakdown, her single motherhood and other experiences, such as a history of bulimia.
While still starring on "The Simpsons," Wallace passed away from pneumonia and sepsis on October 25, 2013, a week before her 71st birthday. Breast cancer was also listed as a significant condition on her death certificate. She was cremated following a private funeral service. With her death, her irreplaceable character on "The Simpsons" was retired. Her co-stars, Bob Newhart and Yeardly Smith, both remembered her fondly on Twitter and Facebook.