Playing Mary Ellen Walton cast a long shadow over the acting career of Judy Norton (now Judy Norton-Taylor).
It wasn't until 1997 - sixteen years after The Waltons was over - that bit parts in television shows began trickling in again. It's only been recently that such roles have been recurring.
In 2013, she featured three times as Judge Sophia Wyndom in Bluff. It's a crime drama based upon the Canadian show Poker Girls, which also sees Judy with writing and directing credits. In 2014, there will be four appearances as The Organizer, in Disorganized Zone.
The problem was quickly identified. Just as soon as Judy attended auditions, in the aftermath of The Waltons, she was informed that Mary Ellen was just too 'goody-goody'. Viewers wouldn't find her believable in any other role, let alone more meaty ones.
In 1985, four years after the cancellation of the show, Judy decided to 'shake things up'. That's when she approached Playboy magazine and featured as its naked centerfold.
It didn't work. The press had a field day, and people like me have brought it up in articles ever since. All of us following the same theme - what would Mary Ellen Walton say about this?!
Nobody at all had much to say a year later, when Judy entered into several sky-diving championships and emerged with two world records. After all, that kind of athletic enterprise was precisely the sort of thing that Mary Ellen would do.
Judy did secure a series of stage roles in low key theaters. It was hardly Broadway, but it paid the bills. She also toured as a singer, but again only in small-scale venues.
It was this dearth of work, which finally saw her move to Canada for eight years, where she bought two theaters and acted as artistic co-director with her second husband, Randy Apostle. The couple had been living in Los Angeles until then.
When that marriage began to fail, Judy returned to the USA with her young son, Devin. Her divorce came through in 2001. A year later, she married her third husband, Robert Graves.
This time around, the acting roles finally began to arrive. But they have yet to reach anything like the level she enjoyed as Mary Ellen.