By Ken Foote

(CBS11) – If you could not have been born Lucille Ball, the next best thing would be to have been her sidekick on her CBS Television Network sitcoms. In addition, if my recollection is correct, only two women had that historical distinction: Vivian Vance and Mary Jane Croft.

Croft was born February 15, 1916 in Muncie IN. She appeared in theatre there and made appearances on radio station WLW (today a 50,000-watt clear channel owned by iHeart Media). She later moved to network radio in numerous shows but first met Ball on her CBS Radio Network show, “My Favorite Husband.” By 1952, she started her long career on network television in such shows as Our Miss Brooks and The Adventures Of Ozzie & Harriet. But the majority of her appearances were with Lucille Ball and the shows produced either by Desilu Productions or Lucille Ball Productions. All told, Croft appeared in 106 episodes from I Love Lucy to Here’s Lucy.

In “I Love Lucy,” she played two roles: one was a passenger on a plane from Europe to New York, sitting next to Lucy, who pretends to have a baby but instead it is a big hunk of cheese! In the final season (1956-57), she was Betty Ramsey, the Ricardo’s and Mertz’s neighbor in Connecticut. When she was cast in The Lucy Show, it was done under her married name, Mary Jane Lewis. As did Vivian Vance did in I Love Lucy and a few episodes of The Lucy Show, Croft was the new sidekick and cohort with Lucy in various wild schemes!

After Ball decided to end Here’s Lucy in 1974, Croft continued to act on television and even returned to network radio for several episodes of the Sears Radio Theatre on the CBS Radio Network and later on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

She was married twice: first to Jack Zoller and then Elliott Lewis. Lewis died in 1990. They had one son, Eric, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Mary Jane Croft passed away on August 24, 1999 of natural causes.

Enjoy this clip of Mary Jane from I Love Lucy, “Country Club Dance” (Original air date: April 22, 1957) on the CBS Television Network!