EXCLUSIVE: Maureen McCormick tears up remembering Florence Henderson, her TV mom and best friend

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On TV, Florence Henderson was Maureen McCormick's doting mother, and in real life, she was one of her best friends.

McCormick sat down with ET on Monday following Henderson's death from heart failure, and she opened up about the iconic star's impact on her life.

"She was an incredible example of how to life your life," McCormick tells ET's Nancy O'Dell. "She was that sweet. She really was. She was the loveliest of ladies."

WATCH: 'Brady Bunch' Star Florence Henderson Dead at 82

See photos of Florence Henderson throughout her life:

34 PHOTOS
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Florence Henderson
Florence Henderson arrives at the Television Academy's 66th Emmy Awards Performers Peer Group Celebration at the Montage Beverly Hills on Monday, July 28, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
Florence Henderson is telling this weeks issue of Closer Weekly that she has a 'friends with benefits'.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Florence Henderson and Christopher Knight attends Love Boat Cast Christening Of Regal Princess Cruise Ship at Port Everglades on November 5, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 29: Actress Florence Henderson arrives at the 2014 amfAR LA Inspiration Gala at Milk Studios on October 29, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
July 19, 2006 - FLORENCE HENDERSON 1986.F2738. RALPH DOMINGUEZ-(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
NEW YORK CITY - JANUARY 19: Actress Florence Henderson attending 'WOR-TV Telethon' on January 19, 1986 at WOR-TV Studios in New York City, New York. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
July 13, 2006 - FLORENCE HENDERSON WITH BILL CALKINS 11-1986. ROGER KARNBAD-MICHELSON-(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
July 19, 2006 - FLORENCE HENDERSON 1987.F3724. RALPH DOMINGUEZ-(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
This is a 1970 photograph of singer and actress Florence Henderson whose recognition came during the series sit-com "The Brady Bunch." (AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 29: Florence Henderson as Carol Brady in THE BRADY BUNCH episode, 'Pass The Tabu.' Original air date September 29, 1972. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 22: The opening of THE BRADY BUNCH episode, 'Hawaii Bound.' Original air date September 22, 1972. Pictured is Florence Henderson as Carol Brady and Robert Reed as Mike Brady. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 1: Robert Reed as Mike Brady, Florence Henderson as Carol Brady and Christopher Knight as Peter Brady in THE BRADY BUNCH episode, 'The Brady Braves.' Original air date October 1, 1971. Season 3, episode 3. Image is a frame grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR - Airdate during November 1976- May 1977. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) FLORENCE HENDERSON;ROBERT REED
LOVE BOAT - 'The Captain's Ne'er-do-well Brother/The Perfect Match/The Remake' which aired on February 2, 1980. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JAMES BRODERICK;FLORENCE HENDERSON
THE BRADY BUNCH - US TV series 1969-74 with principals Robert Reed and Florence Henderson
THE BRADY BUNCH - US TV series 1969-74 with Robert Reed and Florence Henderson
May 1, 2014 - Emmy-winning actress ANN BRADFORD DAVIS, who became the country's favorite housekeeper as the devoted Alice Nelson of 'The Brady Bunch' died Sunday May 1, 2014 at a San Antonio hospital after suffering a fall at her home Saturday. She was 88. PICTURED - c. late 1960's - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - Florence Henderson, Christopher Knight and Ann B. Davis on set of 'The Brady Bunch.' © ABC/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
July 12, 2006 - FLORENCE HENDERSON AS CAROL BRADY IN ''THE BRADY BUNCH''.SUPPLIED BY AD- TV-FILM-STILL(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
LOVE BOAT - 'Country Cousin Blues/Daddy's Little Girl/Jackpot' which aired on October 31, 1981. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) GAVIN MACLEOD;FLORENCE HENDERSON
Florence Henderson attends the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Performers Peer Group Reception at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Sept. 14, 2010 - West Palm Beach, FL - Florida, USA - United States - 091410 (J. Gwendolynne Berry/The Palm Beach Post) -- WEST PALM BEACH -- Florence Henderson is in town to talk about cataract prevention and treatment. (Credit Image: © The Palm Beach Post/ZUMApress.com)
CENTURY CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Actress Florence Henderson attends the 45th Anniversary Gala Vanguard Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on November 8, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Florence Henderson attends Vanity Fair and Chrysler Toast American Hustle during Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood at Ago on February 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 13: 'The Brady Bunch' cast reunites to celebrate Florence Henderson's 80th birthday on THE TALK, Thursday, February, 13, 2014 on the CBS Television Network. From left, Florence Henderson, Sharon Osbourne, and Aisha Tyler, shown. (Photo by Lisette M. Azar/CBS via Getty Images)
HART TO HART - 'Hartland Express' - Airdate: November 3, 1981. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) LEIGH MCCLOSKEY;FLORENCE HENDERSON
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 10: THE LOVE BOAT - 'Lonely at the Top'/'Divorce Me, Please'/'Silent Night' - Season One - 12/10/77, Florence Henderson guest stars as unhappy wife who secretly longs for her husband to ask for a divorce. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR - 1/23-5/25/77, Christopher Knight, Susan Olsen, Mike Lookinland, Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Geri Reischl, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR - 1/23-5/25/77, Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait and actress Florence Henderson, posing in carnival cut-outs. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 584 -- Pictured: (l-r) Former boxer George Foreman, Actress Florence Henderson, host Jay Leno onstage December 1, 1994 -- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Florence Henderson during Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade – May 26, 2007 at Downtown Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. (Photo by Joey Foley/FilmMagic)
Florence Henderson during 5th Annual TV Land Awards - Arrivals at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA, United States. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
THE VIEW - (10.21.10) Singer, Elton John and Florence Henderson ('Dancing with the Stars') appeared on today's episode of 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images) ELTON JOHN, FLORENCE HENDERSON
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Henderson famously played matriarch Carol Brady for the five immensely popular seasons of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), while McCormick played her eldest daughter, Marcia. McCormick recalls being 12 years old when she met Henderson, who left an indelible first impression.

"I was just like, 'Wow! She's so beautiful,'" McCormick fondly remembers. "That woman in no makeup was the most beautiful thing."

Away from The Brady Bunch set, McCormick spent "pretty much every weekend" at Henderson's house with her family. McCormick says they would "hang out in our pajamas all day" or "be in our bathing suits by the pool." Despite their 22-year age difference, the two formed a strong bond that lasted up until Henderson's death.

"Florence played our mother on the show, but I always felt like she was more of a sister," McCormick, 60, says. "She was so young at heart, and just a really good friend."

How more stars reacted to Florence Henderson's death:

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Stars react to Florence Henderson's death
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Stars react to Florence Henderson's death
Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my <3 forever. Love & hugs to her family. I'll miss u dearly #RIPFlorence
Rest In Peace Florence Henderson, a dear lady with a great sense of humor & a terrific laugh. 'America's mom' has died.
RIP Florence Henderson. "The Brady Bunch" was everything.
RIP the dear #Florence Henderson. You were a light.
Broken hearted. She was like a mom to is all. I'm grateful I had the chance to get to know you these past few years. RIP #FlorenceHenderson
America's favorite #70s Mom has passed😔Fond memories working w/ my dear friend @ItsFloHenderson 👉… https://t.co/Gmid3GWt0X
Florence Henderson-Warm Talented & kind passed away today.Thank you Florence for being such a kind generous friend to Alexis.
Florence Henderson. That hurts. But she leaves an indelible mark on the history of entertainment. We love you, Mrs. Brady.
So sad to hear of the passing of the lovely Florence Henderson. Look up, there's one more star in heaven
FlorenceHenderson has passed away. A classy lady who was a big part of the Indy 500 fabric for many years. RIP Mrs Brady
I was so touched by her sincerity & kindness. #FlorenceHenderson was such a class act. My heart goes out to her family during this sad time
UGH..florence henderson passed away today. From all of us who grew up watching the Brady Bunch.. thank you for the life lessons..xoxo
Sad to read about the passing of Florence Henderson, one of the lovliest, most loveable and beloved people in our business
I'm deeply saddened by the loss of Florence Henderson. So many of us grew up watching the Brady Bunch! RIP Carol Brady you will be missed🙏🏼
RIP #FlorenceHenderson - Mrs. Brady was a mother to us all. You will be missed.
We just lost a legend some one who always remembers everyone's name, and is one of the sweetest people I know R.I.P #florenceHenderson
R.I.P Florence Henderson. I grew up with the Brady Bunch! https://t.co/dWCQc5t1Zq
BREAKING NEWS: My heart is broken w/the news that my friend, actress Florence Henderson, has died. "The Brady Bunch… https://t.co/HnQ0bIlrMw
TV's favourite Mum has be called to the big soundstage in the sky. Farewell #FlorenceHenderson. Much more than just… https://t.co/MfMtH5LIVO
I'm so sad to hear about the passing of #FlorenceHenderson #GreatPerson https://t.co/uOVgWxDCwf
Many remember Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch." But she was such a great part of one of my favorite events… https://t.co/ubDz1kyRkP
So terribly sad to hear of the passing of the great Florence Henderson. It was a true honor to have known and worke… https://t.co/1kVi6ixXq9
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WATCH: Christopher Knight and Barry Williams React to Florence Henderson's Death

In the wake of The Brady Bunch's cancellation, Henderson remained by McCormick's side through rough patches, like McCormick's drug-addled past, as well as happier times, like her stint on Dancing With the Stars.

"Throughout my life, she has been a huge supporter in my hard times," McCormick says. "She never gave up on me. She always just believed in me and gave me hope and strength. She gave that to everybody -- it was so genuine and so pure and so loving and so from her heart."

Likewise, Henderson had glowing things to say about McCormick in ET's last interview with her just two months ago.

"I know what Maureen's life has been like, and what she's been through," Henderson said. "She's had difficult times, and I still feel like she's mine. And I love her very much."

WATCH: 'Brady Bunch' Star Maureen McCormick Makes Emotional 'DWTS' Debut, Florence Henderson Cheers Her On

Henderson's last television performance was with McCormick on the ABC dance competition show for a Brady Bunch-themed performance on Sept. 19, when she recited the famous line from their show: "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!"

"It was amazing to be with her and to work with her," McCormick says of their last performance together. "It just like felt so good. It was like no time had passed at all. I just felt such comfort with Florence, such ease, such fun."

Henderson was also in the DWTS audience for the season finale last week, just three days before her death on Thanksgiving.

McCormick says she was in "total disbelief" when she heard the news.

"I had just been with her. I had just seen her," McCormick explains. "She had looked amazing -- an 82-year-old woman who was so full of life and so full of spunk and fun and joy. I just didn't want to believe it."

McCormick says that last time they spoke was on Nov. 14, when they texted how much they loved each other. "Florence made me so happy. Her emojis were the cutest things," McCormick reveals.

FLASHBACK: 'The Brady Bunch Movie' Turns 20! On Set With the Grooviest Cast of '94

"I'll never ever get rid of [those texts]," she says. "She was such a good friend of mine."

Henderson died on Thursday, surrounded by her four children at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, her family kindly asks for donations to be made to Broadway Cares, an organization that supplies lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance to those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Watch the video below to see what Henderson's TV sons Christopher Knight and Barry Williams had to say about missing their fallen former co-star.


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