The Alice star lost her battle with lung cancer on 31 December (15), but she urged her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough, to keep the news of her death private.

Kimbrough tells the New York Times his late wife also requested no funeral or memorial service.

"She didn't want to make a fuss," he said.

Howland was best known for playing waitress Vera Louise Gorman on Alice for nine seasons in the 1970s and 1980s.

She also appeared on Broadway in productions of Twelfth Night, Company and Getting Married Today.

Following Alice, she made guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and The Tick.

She was also the executive producer of Oscar-winning short film You Don't Have to Die.