By People Staff
October 15, 2001 12:00 PM

Hobbled by addictions in the years since she was a member of one of TV’s happiest families, Eight Is Enough‘s Lani O’Grady was ready for some real-world domestic bliss. On Sept. 24 she baked muffins in her Valencia, Calif., trailer home and told her mother she was thinking of getting a puppy. “She said, ‘Oh, I love my little home,’ ” says Mary Grady, a children’s talent agent. “It was the most serene tone I’d heard in her in years.”

When her mother called the next day, O’Grady (who preferred her name with the added “O”) didn’t pick up the phone. Before noon paramedics found the 46-year-old dead in bed; pending autopsy reports, investigators are attributing her death to natural causes. Her mother says O’Grady (sister of Don Grady, 57, who played Robbie on My Three Sons) suffered a variety of health problems—the result of years spent addicted to alcohol, painkillers and tranquilizers, including Valium she said she took to calm panic attacks during the 1977-81 run of Eight, on which she played oldest daughter Mary Bradford. “We knew she was nervous,” says costar Willie Aames, 41, who played brother Tommy. “She was very vulnerable.”

In the years after the show O’Grady bounced in and out of rehab. She was clean at her death, says her mother, taking only an antidepressant and an antiseizure medication (an earlier antidepressant had left her with recurring seizures). “She was the happiest I’d seen her,” says Mary Grady. “The other day she said, ‘I think I’m going to get back into acting.’ ”