Patty Duke Dead at 69

Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke died on Tuesday, March 29, at the age of 69.

“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,” read a statement on her son Sean Astin’s official Facebook page. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”

Duke’s agent, Mitchell Stubbs, said that the cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured intestine. Sepsis is the potentially life-threatening complication of any kind of infection in which inflammation in the body can damage organs, causing them to fail, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Duke rose to fame at age 12 in the Broadway hit The Miracle Worker, in which she played Helen Keller opposite Anne Bancroft as Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan. At just 16, Duke received an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the film adaption of the play.

Her success extended to music and TV as well as theater and film. She starred in the popular 1960s sitcom The Patty Duke Show, and had radio hits like “Don’t Just Stand There.”

Despite her success, Duke was plagued by mental illness. In 1982, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric condition that causes a person to experience extreme shifts in mood and energy levels. She first opened up about her mental illness in her 1988 autobiography Call Me Anna. In 1992, she published another book, A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness, in which she described what it was like to live with the disorder (which was later called bipolar disorder).

She became an avid supporter of mental health issues and collaborated with theNational Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to create the Patty Duke Online Center for Mental Wellness, “a place of comfort, caring, and compassion.” Duke will be remembered as one of the first celebrities to encourage a public dialogue about mental illness.

Photo credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Last Updated: 3/29/2016
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