LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Patty Duke, who as a teen won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” then maintained a long career while battling personal demons, has died at the age of 69.
Duke’s agent, Mitchell Stubbs, says the actress died early Tuesday morning of sepsis from a ruptured intestine.
Duke hinted at health problems in one of her last tweets earlier this month in which she said, “Hi tweethearts and FB friends. I have been absent, but not far, believe me, I love and miss you all. Hopefully back more soon and often.”
Her son, actor Sean Astin, posted a family statement on Facebook that read: “This morning, our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian, and champion for mental health, Anna PATTY DUKE Pearce, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place. We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”
Duke rose to fame after she won an Oscar as a teen for “The Miracle Worker” and maintained a long and successful career throughout her life.
She died in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, according to Teri Weigel, the publicist for her son, actor Sean Astin.
Duke, born Anna Marie Pearce, also played dual roles under a then-unconventional premise: identical twins living in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.
Duke was also an outspoken advocate for mental health. She was diagnosed as bipolar in 1982 after years of battling mental illness, which she wrote about in her memoir, “Call Me Anna.”
“She really opened up a dialogue about mental health at a time when there was still so much stigma,” said Dr. Kita S. Curry, the president and CEO of the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a nonprofit that worked closely with and honored Duke for her advocacy.
Within hours of her passing, her son announced the creation of the Patty Duke Mental Health Project and is now trying to raise $250,000 to get the nonprofit off the ground.
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