Actress Thea White, the voice of Muriel on Cartoon Network’s Courage the Cowardly Dog, died on Friday, July 30. She was 81 years old.
In a Facebook post about Thea’s passing, nephew Brad Zitzner said the cause of death was liver cancer and a post-operation infection.
“She fought hard with courage to try to beat her liver cancer and to resume life or to die trying. She ended up with an infection after cutting out the damn cancer,” Brad wrote on Facebook.
Brad also called Thea “the greatest cheerleader” for his family. “The role you have taken with my kids and all your family sadly can’t be replaced,” he wrote to her. “I can see hundreds of fan tributes already online, so your love was shared far and wide. I’ve never met a person who knew you who didn’t think you were the greatest person alive. That lasted even up through your stay in the hospital, as I’m told the nurses and doctors also fell in love.”
Thea was born into a showbiz family and married a Beatles collaborator.
According to her IMDB bio, the actress was born Thea Ruth Zitzner on June 16, 1940, in Newark, N.J. And showbiz ran in her family, according to a 2002 New Jersey Hills Media Group profile. She was the granddaughter of an actress and a movie theater owner, for example, and the daughter of a singer and dancer.
Thea studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and the American Theater Wing in New York City, and she went on to perform in summer stock, off-Broadway, and dinner theater productions.
She was the widow of Andy White, a Scottish musician famous for playing drums on The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.” When he and Thea met, Andy was working as a drummer for the legendary actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, and Thea became Marlene’s personal assistant.
The couple eventually moved back to New Jersey and moved in with her father, and Thea got a job as an outreach specialist at a local library. But then when she got a life-changing call …
She talked her way into the role of Muriel on ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog.’
One day, the production company Stretch Films called the White household, wanting to speak to Andy. They were looking for someone with a Scottish accent, and a family acquaintance sent them Andy’s way. But it was Thea who picked up the phone.
“I don’t know anyone, but I used to be an actress and my husband is a Scot, and I can do the accent, so why don’t I audition?” she told the producers, per New Jersey Hills Media Group.
And thus, she landed the job of Muriel, the elderly woman who adopts the title character in the animated show Courage the Cowardly Dog. The show aired from 1999 to 2002, but Thea reprised the part in the 2006 video game Cartoon Network Racing and in two direct-to-video movies: 2021’s Scooby Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur and this year’s Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog.
“One of the best things about doing voiceovers is that you never have to retire,” she said in the profile. “As long as you can talk, you can work, and oh boy, can I talk!”