I met jean Stapleton once, in the summer of 1972, in a summer stock theater she ran with her husband in Pennsylvania. She had become famous the year before for her role as Edith in ALL IN THE FAMILY, which I had seen a few times so had an idea who she was. Len Randolph, who ran The national Endowment for The Arts had brought me to see her in a play at the theater because he was an old friend of Jean's and wanted us to meet.
She was as delightful as you can imagine and, of course, not much like the character she became famous for. I found her to be very smart, thoughtful, warm and curious. We ended up having an intimate conversation off by ourselves after the party wound down. She invited me to come back and see her anytime that summer, but I didn't get the chance to. For all I know she may have been as generous with her time with everyone she met and invited them to visit too, but it felt personal and heartfelt and I was very grateful for her attention and kindness.
How happy I am that she had such a long and full life, and how lucky I feel to have been a part of it if only for an evening.
[Here's the NY Times obit.]