Beatrice Arthur's friends and colleagues remembered the Emmy- and Tony-winning actress as a brave force in comedy whose talent and voice were one of a kind.
"I knew it would hurt, I just didn't know it would hurt this much," said Betty White, Arthur's Golden Girls costar. "I'm so happy that she received her Lifetime Achievement Award while she was still with us, so she could appreciate that. She was such a big part of my life."
Arthur was an even bigger part of Rue McClanahan's life: The two paired up in the groundbreaking '70s sitcom Maude before reuniting on Girls. "[Thirty-seven] years ago she showed me how to be very brave in playing comedy," McClanahan said. "I'll miss that courage. And I'll miss that voice."
Arthur, who died Saturday at the age of 86 after a battle with cancer, picked up Emmys for her roles as the sarcastic Dorothy Zbornak on Girls and the title character in Maude. The All in the Family spin-off confronted issues that are still hotly debated today, including abortion.
"I loved Bea dearly and her passing brings a great sadness. We've lost a unique, incredible talent," said Adrienne Barbeau, Arthur's on-screen daughter on Maude. "No one could deliver a line or hold a take like Bea, and no one was more generous or giving to her fellow performers. She was truly one of a kind and her friendship was a cherished blessing for me."
Though her best-known work was on television, Arthur was also an accomplished stage and film actress. She found early success on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her work as Vera Charles, the friend of Angela Lansbury's eponymous character in Mame. Arthur later reprised the role in the 1974 film version.
"Bea Arthur and I first met when we did Mame together in 1965. She became and has remained 'My Bosom Buddy' ever since," Lansbury said. "I am deeply saddened by her passing, but also relieved that she is released from the pain. I spoke to Matt, her son, [on Friday] and I was aware that her time was imminent. She was a rare and unique performer and a dear, dear friend."
Hallmark Channel will pay tribute to Arthur with a Golden Girls Memorial Day Marathon featuring Dorothy-centric episodes on Monday, May 25, from 6:30 am/ET until 2:30 am/ET.
Rewatch Arthur's work in Maude and Golden Girls in our Online Video Guide right now.