All My Children has lost a founding mother.

Mary Fickett, who played the enduring Ruth Brent (and then Ruth Martin) from the soap opera's inception in 1970, died Sept. 8 at 83. She had been in ill health and had moved in with her daughter's family.

ABC says it will dedicate the Sept. 21 episode of AMC to the late star, whose last appearance on the show was Jan. 5, 2010, its 40th-anniversary episode. Ironically, the entire show signs off on Sept. 23 after 41 years.

"We at ABC were very saddened to learn about the passing of one of All My Children's original cast members, Mary Fickett, who portrayed beloved nurse Ruth Brent Martin from 1970-1995 and again from 1998-2000," the network said in a statement. "As we honor All My Children's 41 years on ABC, we cannot help but recognize and remember Mary's wonderful depiction of Pine Valley's revered Ruth. Ruth's marriage to chief of staff Dr. Joe Martin provided the bedrock upon which the town of Pine Valley was built. Their marriage was always a stabilizing force that represented 'home' for many."

On Fickett's last episode, Ruth and hubby Joe were off to a well-deserved retirement in Florida after years of onscreen melodrama that included the death of Ruth's abusive first husband in a car crash, the onset of the Vietnam War and Ruth's rape at the hands of her adopted son's biological father.

It was, indeed, quite the journey.

In 1973, Fickett became the first soap star to win a prime-time Emmy,  for Outstanding Achievement by Individuals in a Daytime Drama. She was nominated two more times after the soaps moved into Daytime Emmy territory.

Before All My Children, Fickett played two different characters on the 1960s drama The Edge of Night and had numerous guest appearances on TV. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1958 for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello on Broadway.

Fickett was married twice, with both unions ending in divorce. She is survived by daughter Bronwyn "Anne" Congdon, son Kenyon Congdon, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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