LaWanda Page, 81, a comedic character actress best known for her role as the Bible-thumping Aunt Esther in the 1970s television hit Sanford and Son, died Saturday in Los Angeles of complications from diabetes.
Born in Cleveland and raised in St. Louis, Ms. Page began her career as a dancer and chorus girl billed as "the Bronze Goddess of Fire." She soon became adept at stand-up comedy.
But her greatest fame began in her 50s, when childhood friend Redd Foxx asked her to join his Norman Lear sitcom adapted from the British series Steptoe and Son. She signed on as Fred Sanford's crusty sister-in-law, Esther Anderson, in 1973, and stayed until the series ended with Mr. Foxx's departure in 1977.
Ms. Page perfected the persona of a righteous, elderly woman who more than stood up for herself. She reprised the Aunt Esther role in two short-lived Sanford and Son spinoffs, The Sanford Arms in 1977 and Mr. Foxx's own Sanford in 1980.