Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – Academy Award winner and mental health advocate Patty Duke passed away Tuesday morning in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at age 69. Her manager released a statement revealing that the very gifted actress died of “sepsis from a ruptured intestine.”

Duke became the youngest person to win an Oscar in the supporting actress category in 1963 as she played the role of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, a character she originated on Broadway. A childhood illness deprived the young Keller of seeing, speaking and hearing.

Patty Duke died at age 69, because of a “sepsis from a ruptured intestine,” according to her manager. Credit:

The former child star was already highly acclaimed for the role onstage. She said she would probably never had the chance to play Keller if she had grown taller. In fact, Duke said that a clause in her 1959 contract allowed producers to dismiss her if she grew 2 inches, according to a report by Los Angeles Times.

But her success in The Miracle Worker was not enough. Duke’s film career was rather ephemeral and she instead moved to the small screen with The Patty Duke Show, on which she debuted in 1963. The actress played the roles of both main characters Patricia “Patty” Lane, an American teenager, and her identical Scottish cousin called Catherine “Cathy” Lane.

Duke tried to return to the big screen by portraying Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls, a performance in which the actress played the controversial role of an alcoholic, drug addict star. The film was widely criticized though it eventually found a cult audience.

Mental illness awareness

In 1982, Patty was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an obstacle she was able to overcome through medication and therapy. She later found out about her passion for mental illness awareness advocacy and via her 1987 autobiography became the first celebrity to publicly talk about her struggle with the mental condition.

“She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need”, The Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin said of his mother in an introduction to a just-released Crowdrise campaign in Patty’s honor.

The proceeds of Crowdrise will go to establish the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative, which will be dedicated to maintaining the actress’ support of mental health programs. Sean also said he had talked with his mother about how her mission of mental health advocacy might continue after her death.

Patty Duke also had a 42-year-old daughter called Mackenzie Astin and was stepmother to the children of her fourth husband, Michael Pearce. He and Duke adopted a son named Kevin, who became a firefighter.

The actress was called Anna Banana by her family and later became Nana Anna Banana when Sean had his own children, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Source: Los Angeles Times