There are a few iconic TV characters from my childhood. The Cartwrights on Bonanza.  The Clampett clan on The Beverly Hillbillies.  Captain Kangaroo.  Captain 11.

And the folks in Dodge. Gunsmoke ran forever, or at least from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper until the time I thought I was too old to like it anymore (but I still did).

Chester, Festus, Doc, and of course Kitty, the owner of the Longbranch (where Sam bartended), where the boys would gather for a cold one after a long day of keeping the town safe and patching up a few gunshot wounds here and there.

Amanda Blake played Kitty and was an integral part of the show. Several episodes centered around her character, highlighting a tough western woman who, ultimately, had a big warm heart.

Born in Buffalo, New York she had numerous roles before Gunsmoke. But it will be as Miss Kitty for 19 years that she will live on in our hearts (and re-runs). She played the iconic saloon keeper on the show for an incredible 19 years, from 1955-1974.

She had a few other roles through those Gunsmoke years, and appeared occasionally on game shows of the day like Hollywood Squares and Match Game, but the role of Kitty kept her plenty busy.  You'll remember in the 'old days', they didn't just run 10 or 12 shows a season. They would do 24-30 episodes a season.

So whatever happened to Amanda Blake?

She was a heavy smoker for many years and had oral cancer surgery in 1977.

She passed away in 1989 and there's some confusion about the cause of death. Some reports say she died of cancer while other reports say it was AIDS-related.Her death certificate stated cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis, which is AIDS-related.

Oh, by the way, if you're a real Gunsmoke fan: Do you remember Kitty's last name?

It was Russell.