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Lucille Ball's granddaughter on how her 'Nana' changed what it meant to be a working mother

Kate Luckinbill-Conner spoke to TODAY's Hoda Kotb about the legacy of her beloved grandmother and why she wants to "to continue carrying the torch."
/ Source: TODAY

Today, many remember Lucille Ball as one of the funniest women to ever appear on their TV screens.

But for Kate Luckinbill-Conner, she was simply "Nana."

Luckinbill-Conner sat down with Hoda Kotb to talk about her grandmother's legacy as part of a series on TODAY that celebrates the role Ball and other female icons played in shaping history.

"She was honest to a fault," Luckinbill-Conner said. "Some people took that as tough. Some people took it as feminism. But it wasn't, really. She was a regular American girl who had big dreams and no idea how to accomplish them."

She was a regular American girl who had big dreams and no idea how to accomplish them.

Yet, of course, she did. Ball became a star with her iconic TV show, "I Love Lucy," which debuted in 1951 and went on to become the most-watched show in the United States. She was a trailblazer in many ways — from starring alongside her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, to running a production company, to being pregnant on the show.

"She just kept pushing ahead," her granddaughter said. "They wanted to have a family. They wanted to remain being a family. So I think that that's really important for people to remember as part of the history. Because it allows us to remember that we can all have families and work if we support each other in that. If we're together in us all wanting that balance, then we can find it."

Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball's granddaughter spoke to TODAY about the star's legacy and what she was like as a grandma.TODAY illustration / Getty Images

Luckinbill-Conner, whose mother is Ball's daughter, was 4 years old when her grandmother died, but she still has fond memories of the famous comedian.

"We used to sit and watch 'Inspector Gadget' together," she said. "And she would give me Oreos and milk and just sit behind me and play backgammon, and just keep me company."

It's a routine she now shares with her own son: "I tell him that this is our Nana time."

Ball, who also had a son with Arnaz, became a doting grandmother.

"She was really involved in my life at that time," Luckinbill-Conner said. "I guess she was really happy to have another little girl. She would wrap my little tufts of hair in these curlers and put me in silk pajamas.

"And I'd have these wonderful, luxurious bubble baths. And I would sleep in her giant California king-sized bed. She would be there for all of that. She loved being a grandma. She finally had time to be the mom that she really, really dreamed of being from the beginning. She wasn't so busy anymore."

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But Ball's busy life is what contributed to her legacy, one kept alive through her family's memories.

"I get to hear all the stories of, 'I watched this with my grandmother. I watched this with my aunt while she battled cancer and survived it. I watched this with my siblings growing up,'" said Luckinbill-Conner, who is launching a line of "I Love Lucy" products and experiences later this year.

"There are family, generational connections now to watching this show together — that's the thing that really gets me. That's the thing that really makes me want to continue carrying the torch."