Estelle Getty, best-known as Sophia in the much-loved American sitcom The Golden Girls, has died at the age of 84 after a long battle with Lewy body dementia.

Getty often stole the show with her portrayal of the feisty Sophia Petrillo in the long running series about four older women who shared a home together in Miami.

The character was Dorothy’s mother in the sitcom, although Getty was only one year older than co-star Beatrice Arthur.

“Our mother-daughter relationship was one of the greatest comic duos ever, and I will miss her,” Arthur said in a statement following the actress’ death.

Getty struggled for almost 40 years to make an impact as an actress before landing the role of the smart-mouthed Sophia. She also played Harvey Fierstein’s mother on Broadway in the landmark gay play Torch Song Trilogy.

In 1991 Getty helped take care of her 29-year-old nephew who was stricken with aids and who died the following year.

The Golden Girls has become an iconic gay series thanks in part to its strong and outspoken female characters, such as the bawdy Blanche Devereaux.

The show, which ran from 1985 to 1992, dealt positively with gay characters and explored themes rarely seen on US television at the time including the coming out of Blanche’s brother, gay marriage, homophobia and HIV.

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