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Nedra Volz, 94; TV Actress Played Many 'Old Lady' Roles

January 29, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Nedra Volz, a character actress remembered for her early 1980s roles as housekeeper Adelaide Brubaker on the popular television comedy "Diff'rent Strokes" and postmistress Miz Emma Tisdale on "The Dukes of Hazzard," has died. She was 94.

Volz, who played her customary "old lady" role in her final film, "The Great White Hype," which was released in 1996, died Jan. 20 in Mesa, Ariz., of complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Montrose, Iowa, to vaudeville parents, she hit the boards as "Baby Nedra" and sang with a band as a young woman. But she did little acting until she became a senior citizen, making her film debut as "the Free Press Lady" in the 1973 comedy "Your Three Minutes Are Up," starring Beau Bridges and Ron Leibman.

Volz gained more attention when she concentrated on roles as elderly women for television sitcoms beginning in an episode of "Good Times" first shown in 1975.

That put her in great demand for grandmother and old-lady parts, especially after she appeared in regular roles in two of producer Norman Lear's summer television series: as Grandma Belle Durbin in "A Year at the Top" in 1977 and as Bill Macy's housekeeper Pinky Nolan in "Hanging In" in 1979.

By the 1980s, the diminutive, white-haired Volz had arrived. She appeared on the small screen almost weekly, sometimes more frequently, from 1980 through 1986.

First came "Diff'rent Strokes," when she stepped in to care for Conrad Bain's mixed Drummond family household featuring pixieish Gary Coleman. She remained on the show through 1982, although she also was the postmistress of Hazzard from 1981 through 1983.

In the 1982-83 season, Volz also took on the dotty matriarch role in the "Filthy Rich" series spoofing prime-time soap opera epics such as "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "Falcon Crest." Volz's main activity as Winona "Mother B" Beck, the discarded first wife of cryogenically frozen Big Guy Beck (Slim Pickens and, after his death, Forrest Tucker), was constantly trying to escape from the nursing home to return to the family mansion, Toad Hall.

Volz ended her regular sitcom series run as the bail bondswoman giving assignments to Lee Majors' stunt- man detective character on "The Fall Guy" from 1985 until the series ended in 1986.

But she remained a popular guest star for nearly 20 years on such series as "Alice," "Maude," "One Day at a Time," "Night Court," "Coach," "The Commish" and "Babes."

She also appeared in such films as "Moving Violations" and "Earth Girls Are Easy."

Volz is survived by a son, Edward Volz of Mesa, Ariz., and a daughter, Linda Deffenderfer of Chandler, Ariz.

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