The Cheers actress died from cancer on Monday, her children confirmed to PEOPLE
By Joelle Goldstein and Elizabeth Leonard
Kirstie Alley had colon cancer prior to her death on Monday at age 71, a rep for Alley tells PEOPLE.
In their statement confirming the news on Monday, Alley’s children, True and Lillie Parker, said their “incredible, fierce and loving mother” had “only recently discovered” the cancer. They also noted that she had been receiving treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, prior to her untimely passing.
“She was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead. As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” they said in their statement.
The siblings also shared how their mother’s “zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did.”
Alley rose to fame in 1987 when she starred as Rebecca Howe on NBC’s Cheers. She earned a Golden Globe for best actress and an Emmy for outstanding lead actress for her part in the Boston-based series in 1991.
She went on to receive her second Emmy win for her portrayal of Sally Goodson in David’s Mother in 1994.
The actress also appeared on television shows including Veronica’s Closet (1997-2000), Fat Actress (2005), Kirstie (2013-2014), and Scream Queens (2015-2016), as well as films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Summer School (1987), Look Who’s Talking (1989), It Takes Two (1995) and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).
In 2010, her life was chronicled on the A&E reality TV series Kirstie Alley’s Big Life. She also competed on season 12 of Dancing with the Stars in 2011, and season 7 of The Masked Singer in 2022.
Following her death on Monday, Alley’s friends and costars across Hollywood expressed their sadness in tributes to PEOPLE and on social media.
Her Cheers costars, Kelsey Grammer, Ted Danson and Rhea Perlman, spoke out in respective statements to PEOPLE, where they remembered their friend for her “heart of gold” and “joy of being.”
“I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her,” said Grammer.
Danson wrote, “I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of Cheers. It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she desperately wants to say yes. Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny. She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard. As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died. I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh. I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”
Added Perlman: “Kirstie was a unique and wonderful person and friend. Her joy of being was boundless. We became friends almost instantly when she joined the cast of Cheers. She loved kids and my kids loved her too. We had sleepovers at her house, with treasure hunts that she created. She had massive Halloween and Easter parties, and invited the entire crew of the show, and their families. She wanted everyone to feel included. She loved her children deeply. I’ve never met anyone remotely like her. I feel so thankful to have known her. I’m going to miss her very, very much.”
Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen, John Travolta, Steve Guttenberg and Taylor Lautner were also among the stars who paid tribute to Alley on social media.