Worked in TV for five decades

Barbara Stuart, a TV actress who appeared on dozens of series over a period of five decades, died May 15 in St. George, Utah. She was 81.

She debuted in an episode of “I Led Three Lives” in 1954 and concluded her career with a recurring role as one of Blythe Danner’s bridge partners on the Showtime series “Huff” in 2004-06. Stuart played Sergeant Carter’s girlfriend Bunny on 21 episodes of “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and McLean Stevenson’s wife Peggy Ferguson on 12 episodes of “The McLean Stevenson Show.” She also appeared in all 13 episodes of the brief 1985-86 series “Our Family Honor” as the wife of crime lord Eli Wallach.

She also had recurring roles as the inept secretary on “The Great Gildersleeve” in 1955 and as Gladys’ friend Alice on “Pete Gladys” from 1960-61, but most of the time, she appeared in just a single episode of a series, some of them celebrated but most not.

Barbara Ann McNeese was born on Jan. 3, 1930, in Paris, Ill. She took acting classes in Cincinnati and studied with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen in New York.

She was hired for that recurring role on “The Great Gildersleeve” after she appeared in the national touring production of “Lunatics and Lovers,” starring Zero Mostel.

Stuart also made a few bigscreen appearances. Early on, there were “Marines, Let’s Go” (1961) and “Hellfighters” (1968); later she appeared in “Airplane!,” as the wife of Robert Stack; in “Bachelor Party,” (1984) as the future mother-in-law of Tom Hanks; and in “The Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills” (1997). Her most recent film credit was the 2001 lesbian romantic comedy “A Family Affair.”

Stuart was divorced from actor Dick Gautier. She is survived by her brother and three stepchildren.

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