April 26, 2010 12:00 PM

They had married nearly 25 years before, but on the Knoxville set of their film That Evening Sun in 2008, costars Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook still acted like newlyweds. They “were tender and playful,” recalls executive producer Larsen Jay. “It was clear that they were very much in love.”

Sadly, their first appearance on the silver screen together was also their last. On April 10, Carter, 70, passed away due to complications from endometrial cancer. A heartbroken Holbrook, 85, said in a statement, “This has been a terrible blow to our family.” Best known for playing the sassy Julia Sugarbaker in the hit sitcom Designing Women, the Tennessee native claimed singing as her first love but worked mainly in TV, including Diff’rent Strokes and a 2007 Emmy-nominated guest stint on Desperate Housewives. “There aren’t many people in this town with such class,” says Housewives creator Marc Cherry. “She will be missed.”

She leaves behind not only Holbrook but her daughters Mary Dixie and Ginna (from a previous marriage; Holbrook was her third husband). Carter was “the kind of wife and mother that every mother hopes their daughter will become,” says one former Designing costar, Annie Potts. Adds another, Jean Smart: “There was no one else like her.”

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