Star. Advocate. Humanitarian. All of these words describe legendary actress Patty Duke, who died earlier today due to sepsis caused by a ruptured intestine. She was 69 years old.
Duke, born Anna Marie Duke in 1946, first gained acclaim as a child, starring as Helen Keller in a Broadway production of “The Miracle Worker” starting in 1959. Her Broadway run lasted two years, eventually leading the actress to star in the film version of the play, for which she won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Several years later, she starred in the television classic, The Patty Duke Show, which found the actress playing dual roles as identical cousins living in New York. It’s three season run from 1963-1966 cemented Duke as a gifted, and ranged, comedienne.
Nominated for many awards throughout her career, Duke won 1 Oscar, 2 Golden Globes, and 3 Emmy’s as an actress, in addition to serving as Screen Actors Guild president from 1985-1988.
Over the last half of her life, Duke remained semi-active in the acting community, guest starring in numerous TV shows including Glee, and the rebooted Hawaii Five-0. However, for the past few decades Duke has served as an advocate for people with mental health issues, openly discussing her battles with bi-polar disorder after being diagnosed in 1982.
In many ways, Duke destigmatized the label by discussing her personal struggles in her 1987 autobiography, “Call Me Anna,” as well as 1992’s “A Brilliant Madness.” Her willingness to discuss her struggles played a large role in shaping the current conversation surrounding mental illness, inspiring others, regular people and stars alike, to also discuss the battles of their own.
The announcement was made by actor Sean Astin, Duke’s son with The Addams Family actor John Astin, to whom Duke was married for 13 years, on Facebook.
“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 plane. We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”
Astin also noted that the good works of his mother will continue via The Patty Duke Mental Health Project, an initiative that aims to further help those struggling with mental illness. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to assist the institutes founding.
Duke left behind a legacy of good works whose impact will continue to be felt for years to come. Though she may not have been as active as she had been in recent years, her acting career continues to serve as an inspiration for young actors and actresses, just as her humanitarian efforts continue to inspire others to speak out and act as well. May she rest in peace.