Patricia Loud, Matriarch of 'An American Family,' Dies at 94

An American Family
Everett Collection

The docu-series, which aired on PBS in 1973, is considered one of TV's first reality shows.

Patricia Loud, who is best known for being the matriarch of the PBS docu-series An American Family, died Sunday at her home in her sleep of natural causes. She was 94. The family revealed the news of her death on Facebook.

"With inconsolable sorrow, we are sad to share the news with friends and family that on Sunday January 10 at 1:55pm PT, Pat Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep of natural causes. She was snuggled up safe in her comfy home, attended by loving children Michele, Delilah, Kevin and Grant," the post reads, in part.

Loud was born Patricia Claire Russell in Eugene, Ore, on Oct. 4, 1926. She went on to study world history and English literature at Stanford University, graduating in 1948. She returned to Eugene, where she met Bill Loud. The two married in Mexico City and welcomed their first son, Alanson "Lance" Russell Loud, in June 1951. They went on to have four more children: sons Kevin and Grant and daughters Delilah and Michele.

The Loud family became famous as the subjects of An American Family, which was filmed in 1971 and aired on PBS in early 1973. The show was considered groundbreaking and is now referred to as the first reality TV series. It was intended to chronicle the daily lives of the family, who was living in Santa Barbara at the time, but ended up showing the separation and eventual divorce of Bill and Pat. The show is also credited as featuring one of TV's first openly gay "characters," showcasing Lance's coming-out.

Pat went on to move to New York's Upper East Side and work in the publishing industry before relocating to Bath, England. She returned to L.A. after Lance was diagnosed with HIV. He died in 2001 of complications due to Hepatitis C. Bill and Pat reportedly moved back in together before Lance died, as one of his final wishes. Bill died in 2018, also of unnatural causes.

Following the broadcast of An American Family, the family was featured in two follow-up specials, 1983's American Family Revisited and 2003's Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family.

A 2011 HBO movie, Cinema Verite, told a fictionalized account of the making of An American Family, with Diane Lane earned a Golden Globe nom for her portrayal of Pat.

"Pat Loud was a fierce, inflexible, forthright matriarch and loyal champion of outsiders and iconoclasts," her family wrote on Facebook. "Her door was never locked and there was always room at her table. Never one for regrets or reflection, she moved forward in life with enthusiasm and courage."

Pat is survived by her children Kevin, Grant, Delilah and Michele.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in her name to The Rescue Train at therescuetrain.org.

"But…you know what she’d really like?" the Facebook post continued. "Throw something delicious in the oven and let the aroma fill the house. At the stroke of 5 p.m., gather friends and family around a tray of savory treats. Fill a glass with ice and — if you really want to do it right — everyone take one, VERY LARGE vodka. Maybe (definitely) two. Then sit down to dinner at a crowded table. Tell stories, put music on, laugh, and make a lot of noise. Have seconds, clean plates. And love each other. She'd love that."