If you saw her today, you might not recognize her until you heard the familiar voice. Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth, the youngest member of the clan on The Waltons television series, celebrates her birthday on June 17.
Kami Cotler and some of her siblings appeared on the TV series, which first aired in 1971 and ran for nine seasons. It was an adaptation of earlier writings by Earl Hamner, who chronicled the events of his family in Schuyler, Virginia, during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II.
Cotler and the other child actors who had roles in the TV series first appeared in a movie about the family titled The Homecoming — A Christmas Story, starring the late Patricia Neal.
Kami Cotler was born in Long Beach, California, on June 17, 1965, according to Rockfish-river.com. She was just 6 years old when she was cast in The Homecoming. She won the role as Elizabeth Walton in the TV series The Waltons only a year later and still occupied it as a teenager.
Cotler continues to appear in feature and reunion films and regularly attends fan club gatherings.
After The Waltons, the actress attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she chose a career in education, the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival site says. Since the TV series was filmed in California, it was somewhat ironic that Kami Cotler’s first teaching job was in rural Virginia, on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and not far from the Hamner homestead that served as the setting for The Waltons. Her job involved working in an alternative, interdisciplinary high school program for at-risk teens.
Cotler, along with her husband, son and daughter, returned to California, settling in Los Angeles in 2001. She has been active in the charter school movement and co-founded an arts-integrated charter for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. She is the founding principal of the Environmental Charter Middle School in Los Angeles. This institution gets students ready to attend four-year colleges by focusing on experiential learning and the environment.
I met Kami Cotler and her son shortly before the family returned to the West Coast. Both of us were attending a gathering of the Waltons International Fan Club, held near the Hamner homestead. She appeared reserved though friendly and not at all hesitant to answer questions she had probably been asked dozens of times.
Of all the former cast members I met at this and other fan club reunions, Kami Cotler appeared to be the most at home with her experience in the popular series. She obviously still identified with the role and still kept in touch with the other surviving cast members.
So it’s happy birthday to both Kami and “Elizabeth.”