The Brady Bunch

Ann B. Davis was much, much more than 'Alice'

Soon after its birth, the MTV network tried to branch out with "Remote Control," a hipper than hip game show. Contestants were quizzed on media trivia including a category called, "Alive or dead?" The goal was to guess the current status of pop-culture icons.

One day in 1988 the name "Ann B. Davis" popped up on the screen. Hitting the buzzer, a contestant shouted, "Dead!"

With a classic double take, Davis shouted, "I am not!" at the den television in the 26-room redstone house she shared with a dozen or more other Christians in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Wrong, said the host. The actress -- who achieved media immortality as Alice, the wisecracking housekeeper on The Brady Bunch" -- was now a nun, living in Colorado.

"I am not a nun," shouted Davis, with a dramatic pout.

The confusion was understandable and Davis knew it. It was hard for outsiders to grasp the spiritual changes that caused this tough-willed and very private women to put her career on the back burner and, in 1976, join a commune of evangelical Episcopalians, led by Colorado Bishop William C. Frey and his wife, Barbara. She stayed with the household as it moved to an Anglican seminary in Western Pennsylvania steel country and, finally, to the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, where she died last Sunday (June 1) at age 88.

As the years passed, she opened up and shared her story with religious groups using the title, "Where I am, where I was and how I got from there to here." I came to know her while reporting for The Rocky Mountain News and through a close friendship with one of the bishop's sons, when we attended the same parish. That meant spending time (an awkward journalistic situation, with guidelines cleared by editors) in the bishop's house and, of course, meeting the woman many called "Ann B."