Kathryn Joosten Dies at 72
updated 06/02/2012 AT 08:15 PM EDT
•originally published 06/02/2012 AT 05:10 PM EDT
The actress, best known for her role on Desperate Housewives as plucky neighbor Karen McCluskey and as The West Wing's secretary Mrs. Landingham, was surrounded by family and friends in Westlake Village, Calif., at the time of her death.
"Kathryn passed away this morning after a valiant fight against her cancer," Nadine Jolson, Joosten's rep, told E! News. "Her family was with her. Funeral arrangements are pending. This is a terrible loss, and she fought as hard as she could."
She is survived by her two sons, Jonathan (and his wife Jeremy and their son Jon Henry) and Timothy (and his wife Karissa and their son Evan James), who released this statement: "The family of Kathryn Joosten, two-time Emmy winner, long-time Governor of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, lung cancer advocate, and so much more, regrets to announce that Kathryn succumbed to her 11-year battle with lung cancer today, June 2, 2012, surrounded by love and humor til the end. Thanks to everyone for their love and support. We are laughing through our tears. We love you, Kathy, thanks for everything."
Joosten was a former smoker, who survived a bout with lung cancer in 2001, and had a another cancerous growth successfully removed from her lung in 2009 as she prepared for her fifth season of Housewives.
"She'll be back to her feisty old self, chasing her old man down the street any day now," her rep told PEOPLE at the time. Joosten was also a vocal advocate for lung cancer awareness and research.
Kicking off her career as an actor at the age of 42, she was first a psychiatric nurse. Scoring small roles on Dharma and Greg, My Name is Earl, Ally McBeal, it was her comedic contributions to Wisteria Lane that her earned the Outstanding Guest Actress Emmy in 2005 and 2008. Housewives ended its run on ABC last month – Joosten's character passed away in the series finale.
Her costar Felicity Huffman Tweeted Saturday, "All my prayers and love to Katherine (sic) Joosten's family. Rest in peace, she was an amazing woman and a wonderful actress."
Housewives creator Marc Cherry agreed. "The character of Mrs. McCluskey was created for a single episode. We then cast Kathryn Joosten and she infused the part with so much feisty wit and curmudgeonly bravado, we knew we had to move her onto Wisteria Lane for the run of the series," Sherry said Saturday in a statement. "I will forever miss her, as a co-worker and as a friend."