Karen Sue Trent was an American actress who appeared in several TV shows and movies in the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known for her role as Penny Woods on Leave It to Beaver, a popular sitcom that ran from 1957 to 1963. She also starred in the controversial naturist film Garden of Eden, which was banned in some states for its nudity. She died on February 20, 2022, at the age of 73, in Wimauma, Florida. What was the cause of her death and what happened to her after she left the showbiz industry? Here is a brief biography of her life and career.
Early Life and Acting Debut
Karen Sue Trent was born on March 14, 1948, in West Virginia, to Donald R. and Pauline Crumrine Alkire. She had two siblings, Mike and Sharon, who both predeceased her. She started acting at the age of six, when she was cast as Joan Latimore in the film Garden of Eden (1954). The film, directed by Max Nosseck, was a naturist film that depicted the life of a nudist colony. Karen Sue Trent played the daughter of the main characters, who joined the colony after fleeing from their abusive relatives. The film was controversial for its time, as it showed full-frontal nudity of both adults and children. It was banned in some states and faced legal challenges for violating obscenity laws. However, it was also praised by some critics for its artistic merit and social message.
Rise to Fame and Retirement
Karen Sue Trent’s performance in Garden of Eden caught the attention of several TV producers, who offered her roles in various shows. She appeared in Matinee Theatre (1957), Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958), Wagon Train (1959), and The Rifleman (1963). Her most famous role was Penny Woods on Leave It to Beaver, a sitcom that followed the adventures of a suburban family. She played the girlfriend of Wally Cleaver, the older brother of the titular character. She appeared in 14 episodes from 1960 to 1962, and became a fan favorite for her sweet and innocent personality.
However, her acting career came to an abrupt end after a traumatic incident on the set of The Rifleman. She played a young girl who sank into quicksand in the episode “The Most Amazing Man”. She got stuck in the muddy bog and suffered injuries that required hospitalization. She was only 15 years old at the time and was traumatized by the experience. She decided to quit acting and pursue a normal life away from the spotlight.
Personal Life and Death
Karen Sue Trent married Richard Trent on May 23, 1970. They had two sons, Scott and Tim, and four grandchildren, Josh, Evan, Liam, and Ava. She lived in Buckhannon, West Virginia, where she was active in several churches. She died on February 20, 2022, in Wimauma, Florida, where she was visiting her son. She was buried in the Heavner Cemetery in Buckhannon.
Karen Sue Trent was a talented actress who had a promising career in the entertainment industry. She was also a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend who touched many lives with her kindness and faith. She will be missed by many who knew her and enjoyed her work. May she rest in peace.