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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Randee Dawn

This post is brought to you by the letter "R," as in "retirement."

After over four decades as Maria on "Sesame Street," actress Sonia Manzano announced at the American Library Association's annual conference Monday that she was leaving the show.

South Bronx-born Manzano joined "Sesame Street" in 1971 and attended New York's famous High School of the Performing Arts. She landed the "Sesame Street" role almost directly out of college, and was thrilled to be part of the unique educational program.

"It was so in-your-face, so compelling," she told the Archive of American Television in 2004.

Sonia Manzano on "Sesame Street" in the 1970s, and from 2014.TODAY

Plus, she added, "At that time, there were no people of color on television and if there were, they certainly weren't nice little Susan and Gordon [other characters on the show]."

Over the years, her character married (Luis, the fix-it-store man), became a partial owner of the store, and had a child on the show, milestones that generally paralleled her own life.

The 65-year-old has been nominated for two Emmy Awards for acting and won 15 of the prizes for writing on the show.

Naturally, fans have been pouring out their love and sadness on the web since the news broke.

So far, while Manzano is replying to many of the outpourings of good wishes, she hasn't given many details ... though she did reveal one secret:

Fans can find out a more about Sonia when her children's book, "Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx," is published on Aug. 25.

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