Denise Dowse has died at the age of 64 following a battle with viral meningitis put her in a coma for days. Her passing was confirmed via social media by her sister Tracey on Saturday, Aug. 13. “I want to take this moment to thank our friends and family for all of the love and prayers,” Tracey penned. “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform everyone that my sister, Denise Dowse, has gone forward to meet our family in eternal life,” she said.
“Denise Yvonne Dowse was the most amazing sister, a consummate, illustrious actress, mentor and director. She was my very best friend and final family member. Denise loved all of you. I know that she is watching over us with all the love she has,” Tracey signed off.
Dowse built her career on a strong foundation. For nearly a decade (between 1991 and 2000), she played the strict but warm vice principal Mrs. Yvonne Teasley on iconic Fox teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210. But her stint opposite Shannen Doherty and the late Luke Perry as West Beverly Hill’s High’s second in command was nowhere near her only high-profile role. Denise, 64, has also appeared on mega-hit Grey’s Anatomy, HBO’s Insecure, and CBS’s The Guardian, among others.
Ahead of her passing, Tracey shared a health update to social media. “I am requesting support and prayers be offered me and my sister, and my only immediate family Denise Dowse,” her sister said via Denise’s Instagram account in an August 7 post. Dowse had been experiencing inflammation in the protective membranes that both surrounded her brain and spinal cord. “She is currently in the hospital in a coma brought on by a virulent form of meningitis. Her doctors do not know when she will come out of the coma as it was not medically induced.
Here are the top five things to know about the woman who helped shape the high school experience for Beverly Hills, 90210 characters and fans alike.
She has a dense TV resume.
It doesn’t look like Denise ever took a break from acting. A glance at her resume reveals a veteran actor who worked almost constantly. And when she wasn’t acting in regular and recurring roles like those on 90210, Charmed, and Rocket Power, she was keeping busy working one-episode gigs. Her roles go way back and include spots on TV series including Alf (1989), Seinfeld, (1992), Murphy Brown (1994), ER, (1998), House (2010), The Bernie Mac Show (2006), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), among many others.
She’s prolific in film, too.
Denise didn’t just appear on some of the best-known TV series in history. She’s also made her mark on the big screen. According to her official Wikipedia page, she appeared alongside Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville (1998), in Darren Aronofsky‘s Requiem for a Dream (2000) and in Dr Dolittle 2 (2001) starring Eddie Murphy.
She had range, too, showing up in multiple comedies. She played Olivia Biggs in 1996 Pauly Shore comedy Bio-Dome, and Sky Marshal Meru in 1997’s Starship Troopers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she notably played Ray Charles’ manager Marlene Andre opposite Jamie Foxx in 2004 drama Ray.
Denise is an accomplished director.
The actress is also accomplished behind the camera — her IMDb page credits her as a director on 2 productions, including Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story, which appears to be in post-production. The film stars Vanessa Williams, Corbin Bleu, and Keith David. Her other director’s credit is for a 2004 short, entitled Reflections: A Story of Redemption. She was also a resident director of the Amazing Grace Conservatory, a youth performing arts school, for nearly two decades.
She was born in Hawaii.
Not much is known about her upbringing, but IMDb states that Denise was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on February 21, 1958. Her Wikipedia states that she is the daughter of a naval officer.
Denise holds a bachelor’s degree.
Per Hollywood Fringe, the beloved actress holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/Theatre from Norfolk State University in Virginia. According to the same page, she’s put her formal training to work in Los Angeles live theater productions as both a director and actor.