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August 10, 2021

Remember Aunt Esther in 'Sanford and Son'? – Inside LaWanda Page & Her Daughter's Deaths

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Esther "Aunt Esther" Anderson from "Sanford and Son" was played by LaWanda Page. She was a talented actress who lived a full life until her death in the early 2000s, and whose daughter died just four years after her.

LaWanda Page played the religious aunt who never hesitated to speak her mind on "Sanford and Son" from 1972 to 1977. Her character was the sister of the main act, Fred Sanford’s late wife, and she would often clash with her brother-in-law over varying topics.

Ironically, Page’s success in “Sanford and Son” can reportedly be attributed to the influence of late comedian Red Foxx, who played Fred on the show. Page and Foxx grew up together in St. Louis, Missouri, and remained friends over the years.

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LAWANDA'S EARLY CAREER

Page first started her career as a dancer at the age of 15. She would then go on to work as a fire-eating performer in nightclubs, earning the nickname “Bronze Goddess of Fire,” and from there, she moved to skits and stand-up comedy.

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Page and Foxx often shared the stage during her nightclub days, and when the comedian was offered a sitcom years later in LA, he introduced Page to one of the show’s producers. In fact, Foxx reportedly threatened to walk away if they did not think Page was fit for the role. 

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HER ROLE ON "SANFORD AND SON"

Thanks to her good friend, she secured her spot on the hit NBC show. After “Sanford and Son” wrapped up in 1977, she went on to appear in several other TV series and films.

She reprised her role as Aunt Esther on two "Sanford and Son" spinoffs, also making appearances on Foxx's variety show, "The Red Foxx Comedy Hour." Aside from working with her good friend, she appeared on "Detective School," “227,” “Love Boat,” and “Diff'rent Strokes.” 

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HER SUDDEN PASSING

In more recent years prior to her death, she also appeared on Ice Cube's "Friday," "Family Matters," "In Living Color," and "Martin." She also had TV commercials, including one that was well-received for Atlanta's Church's Fried Chicken.

Page died in September 2002 from diabetes complications at 81 years old. Sadly, her daughter, evangelist Clara Estella Roberta Johnson, passed away almost four years later, in June of 2006, at age 69.

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REMEMBERING LAWANDA

If there's one person who said it best about how Page lived her life when she was alive, it would be Donald Welch, who wrote and directed a comedy gospel musical in which she starred. He said:

"LaWanda lived the life she loved, and loved the life she lived."

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"Sanford and Son" was a stepping stone for many of its characters' careers to hit it off in Hollywood. Unfortunately, like Page, co-stars like Whitman Mayo also passed away early. He died in 2001 at the age of 70, just a year before Page. 

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