As Ann Romano, a divorced midwestern mom starting over, Bonnie Franklin found the role of a lifetime. Her character was raising two teen girls (played by newcomers Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips), but the show was Franklin's baby too: She pushed the writers to include daringly real topics (from dating older men to teen suicide) that made the 1975 to 1984 CBS sitcom a hit. And in front of the cameras, she delivered. "I am not a director, producer or writer who does his number and then boogies out," she told PEOPLE in 1977. "My face is on the screen and my ass is on the line."
In putting herself out there, the actress, 69, who died of complications of pancreatic cancer March 1, became a inspiration to modern working mothers-and to Bertinelli, 52, just 15 when the show debuted. "She taught me how to navigate this business," says the actress, "and life itself." If her role on One Day
also meant being remembered for her distinctive red mop of hair, Franklin was okay with it. "I looked like a cocker spaniel," she later joked. "But we weren't doing fashion. We were in Indianapolis!"