‘All in the Family’: One Star Revealed Why Retirement Was ‘So Unacceptable’ to Them

by Joe Rutland

Actress Jean Stapleton of “All in the Family” fame did not like the idea of retirement at all brought up during her lifetime.

“I was thinking about it the other day,” Stapleton said in a 1999 interview with The Hartford (Conn.) Courant. “Why does the concept of retirement seem so foreign to me and so unacceptable?

“It’s because when you’re doing something you love, there is no retirement,” Stapleton said. “You don’t retire from something you love and that has been such a large part of your life.”

Jean Stapleton Put Her Focus On Living A Full Life

Stapleton brought a one-woman show called “Eleanor: Her Secret Journey,” which focuses on the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, to Hartford in 1999. Stapleton, who played Edith Bunker on “All in the Family” on CBS, died in 2013.

“A lot of people retire because they can’t wait to put the work behind them and do what interests them,” she said. “At least I hope they do, instead of just ‘I’m gonna die folks, what’s the use?’ Too many people accept that.”

In the interview, Stapleton refers to Roosevelt’s life after her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, died in Warm Springs, Ga., on April 12, 1945.

“Take Eleanor,” Stapleton said. “She didn’t live to die, but a lot of people do, you know.”

O’Connor: Stapleton Made ‘All in the Family’ Work

As part of “All in the Family,” Carroll O’Connor said that Stapleton was a perfect yin to Archie Bunker’s yang.

“Working with Jean was one of the great pleasures of my life,” O’Connor said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “Jean – I say so in my book – I think Jean made ‘All in the Family.’ I think she set that show going. Because she was the exactly right counterforce for Archibald.

“And her character was all-important,” O’Connor said. “She represented, not the target of all of his remarks, but the proper reaction.

“She was the proper, sensible, moral reaction to this nonsensical, immoral man,” he said. “It was just as important a role as the immoral man.”