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Betsy Palmer Dead: ‘Friday The 13th’ Actress Sadly Dies At 88

Mon, June 1, 2015 10:40am EDT by 1 Comment
Betsy Palmer Dead
Courtesy of Getty Images

The horror world is in mourning. Betsy Palmer, the actress who famously portrayed Jason Voorhees’s mother in the first ‘Friday the 13th’ movie, passed away on May 29. She was 88.

How sad. Betsy Palmer has left us. The 88-year old actress died on May 29. Betsy had an incredible film and television career, one that saw her star alongside such Hollywood legends like Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Joan Crawford. However, for most, she will be remembered as Pamela Voorhees, the villain in the very first Friday The 13th movie.

Betsy passed away from natural causes at a Connecticut hospice center on May 29, her longtime manager, Brad Lemack, told the Associated Press. She is survived by her daughter, Melissa Merndino, who she had with ex-husband, Dr. Vincent Joseph Merendino. Vincent and Betsy divorced in 1974.

Though Betsy was permanently entered in pop culture as the murderous mother in 1980’s Friday the 13th, her career started all the way back in the 1950’s. After growing up in East Chicago, Indiana, Betsy pursued acting and scored her first job on the 15-minute long, daily soap opera, Miss Susan in 1951.

During her early career, she appeared on stage with a touring production of South Pacific and as a regular panelist on the quiz show I’ve Got A Secret. She would go on to appear in over 70(!) different television shows, including Newhart, The Love Boat, Password and Just Shoot Me!. Incredible!

Some of her noted film roles included Mister Roberts (1955) with Henry Fonda, Queen Bee (1956) with Joan Crawford and with Anthony Perkins in The Tin Star (1957). Her last appearances include 2007’s Bell Witch: The Movie and the 2005 short, Penny Dreadful. But her role as Jason’s mother made her a pop culture icon!

Betsy would say in her later years that she only took the Friday the 13th role in order to buy a new car. However, she would later embrace her part of horror movie history, reports Bloody Disgusting. She would become a fixture at conventions, appreciative of the love that horror fans had for her.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Betsy’s family, friends and fans during this time of loss.

— Jason Brow