Life and Career Edit
Before she became an actress, Rea left UCLA to attend business school. She landed a job as a production secretary at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1940s. Later, she was an assistant to writer-musician Kay Thompson until Thompson dropped her in April 1948. Some of the points of discord apparently included Rea's insistence on staying at the Algonquin Hotel (rather than Essex House, where Thompson was staying), and disappearing, on at least one occasion, on the eve of their New York opening to see Born Yesterday on Broadway without telling Thompson. "The time had come for Peggy to make her mark as the character actress she was born to be. She quickly landed on her feet with a supporting role in the National Road Company production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire" (as Eunice Hubbell, 1948–49) starring Anthony Quinn. Thompson severed ties with Rea, however the younger woman kept in touch with other members of Thompson's family, including Thompson's mother, brother and younger sister, with whom she enjoyed cordial relations.
She appeared in such television shows as I Love Lucy, Hazel, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Sergeant Bilko, Ironside, Burke's Law, Marcus Welby, M.D., All In The Family, Hunter, The Odd Couple, Gidget, Busting Loose, MacGyver, The Dukes of Hazzard (as Lulu Coltrane Hogg) and The Golden Girls.
She appeared in feature films, including Cold Turkey and In Country. She joined the cast of The Waltons in 1979 as Rose Burton, a cousin of Olivia Walton, as sort of a surrogate parental figure replacing Ellen Corby (Grandma), Michael Learned (Olivia), and the following year, Ralph Waite (John). (She'd also previously appeared in a 1978 episode of The Waltons, playing a landlady.) Rea remained with the series until the spring of 1981 when her character of Rose married her beau Stanley Perkins (played by William Schallert) shortly before the show's cancellation. Rea's character of Rose appeared in the Walton's Thanksgiving Reunion in 1993. Rea later appeared as a regular on the sitcom Grace Under Fire during the 1990s.
She died in Toluca Lake, California, aged 89, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on February 5, 2011, one month before her 90th birthday.