Billie Mae Richards, 88, the voice actress who played the title character in the 1964 animated TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, died Sept. 10 of stroke in Burlington, Canada, according to Variety. The Toronto actress started her career in theater at a young age and switched to radio and voiceover work upon discovering her knack for imitating the voice of a boy. Richards was in her early 40s when she voiced Rudolph in the stop-motion animated special, which has since become the longest-running Christmas TV special and a holiday tradition for many families. “I’m just so glad that my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids, and probably my great-great-grandkids will see Rudolph,” Richards said in a 2005 interview for Filmfax magazine. Richards is survived by four children and 12 grandchildren.
Posted September 14 2010 — 10:50 PM EDT
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