Valerie Harper died on Aug. 30 after a long battle with cancer

By Johnny Dodd Eric Todisco
September 07, 2019 06:00 PM
Joe Pugliese

Valerie Harper‘s friends and family honored the late actress on Saturday for a powerful and emotional funeral service.

The actress was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, near graves of late stars Mickey Rooney and Chris Cornell.

In attendance were director James L. Brooks, actor Elliott Gould and actress Frances Fisher.

The service was filled with tears and laughter, especially when Harper’s daughter, Cristina Cacciotti, shared loving words about her mother’s much-celebrated toughness during her cancer battle.

“I don’t have balls, I have steel ovaries,” Cacciotti recalled her mother saying. Other speakers also recounted Harper’s lifelong acts of charity and political activism.

Harper died on Aug. 30 at age 80 after years of health issues, including leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, lung cancer and brain cancer. The actress was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in 2013, just four years after she beat lung cancer in 2009. The condition occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain, known as the meninges.

RELATED: Valerie Harper, Beloved TV Icon, Dies at 80, After a Long Battle With Cancer

Valerie and Tony
Amanda Marsalis

Following the news of her death, Harper’s daughter Christina shared a heartwarming message on behalf of her father Tony Cacciotti.

“My dad has asked me to pass on this message: ‘My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06 a.m., after years of fighting cancer,’” Cristina wrote on Twitter. “She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. — Anthony.”

Throughout Harper’s years-long struggles, Cacciotti, her husband of 32 years, remained by her side. He took it upon himself to ensure that his wife was as comfortable as possible in some of the final moments of her life.

Despite their professional opinion, Cacciotti said he was not willing to listen to them because of how much he adored Harper and vowed to do what he deemed best for his wife.

“I have been told by doctors to put Val in Hospice care and I can’t [because of our 40 years of shared commitment to each other] and I won’t because of the amazing good deeds she has graced us with while she’s been here on earth,” he wrote in a Facebook post on July 23.

Valerie
Amanda Marsalis

RELATED: Valerie Harper’s Friend of 50 Years Remembers the ‘Most Kind Person I’ve Ever Known’

At the time of her diagnosis, doctors told her she only had three months to live, but Harper beat the odds and continued to live well beyond their expectations by six years.

“She was happy every single day because she was given six weeks to live,” Harper’s close friend, Sue Cameron, told PEOPLE. “Her goal was to teach everybody with cancer how to live with dignity, and with as much fun as you can.”

“Valerie said, ‘I’ve been given six weeks to live, but I’m going to have the best time,’” Cameron recalled. “And then she kept on living. She kept giving interviews saying, ‘I’m still here, still having a good time.’ “

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