Born Patricia Betsy Hrunek, Palmer sported a distinctive short-cropped blonde hair look that lent itself to playing troubled or frightening mom roles, especially in later years.
Palmer appeared in seven Broadway shows. All the original productions had short runs, but she replaced other actresses in long-run shows, notably Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year in 1977 and Lauren Bacall in Cactus Flower in 1967.
Palmer’s film career included some distinguished titles, including the movie adaptation of Broadway’s Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, but she stumbled on what may be her signature role, the murderous mom of horror movie killer Jason Voorhees in the low-budget 1980 “Friday the 13th” and one of its sequels. Thereafter she played similar roles in cinema scarefests like “The Fear: Resurrection” and “Still Not Quite Human.” Her TV credits include "Murder, She Wrote,” "Knots Landing," “Newhart,” and anthology shows like “Playhouse 90,” “Studio One in Hollywood,” “Kraft Theatre,” “Love, American Style” and 'The Love Boat."