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Patty Duke Dead At Age 69 Following Painful Struggle With Intestinal Condition

by Jesse L. / Mar 29, 2016 04:13 PM EDT
Patty Duke appearing in the 1985 ABC television program "Hail To The Chief." Duke died Tuesday at the age of 69.
Patty Duke in 2014

Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke died early Tuesday morning at the age of 69. The official cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured intestine, Duke's agent told the Associated Press.

According to Duke's son Sean Astin, the last several days had been excruciating for the late actress.

"[She] really, really suffered," Astin said, according to a report from Fox News.

Duke's son added that from late last week until early Tuesday morning, "was a really, really, really hard process."

"It was hard for her, it was hard for the people who love her to help her," he said.

After winning the 1962 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award at the age of 16 for her role as Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker," Patty Duke went on to create "The Patty Duke Show," one of the most iconic sitcoms in early television history. But it was her humanitarian work for the mentally ill and her warm and caring spirit that her family touched upon in their official statement on the actress's death.

"This morning, our beloved wife, mother and matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian and champion for mental health, Anna Patty Duke Pearce, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended into a beautiful place," the statement read.

"We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life."

The actress, who struggled with her own inner demons, traced many of her mental health issues back to child stardom, famously once reflecting that "my real depressions started when I was about 16 and doing The Patty Duke Show, I would go to bed at about 10:00 on a Friday night and not get up again until 6:30 Monday morning."

She also reportedly reflected on being an octogenarian, a fate that is tragically not to be.

"When I'm 80 and sitting in a rocking chair listening to the Rolling Stones, there is absolutely no way I'm going to feel old or forget my younger days," Duke once said.

The late actress's musings on death give the impression it is something she had spent considerable time pondering.

"I have been afraid all my life that I am going to die," she once said. "All my life it has been stuffed in my imagination."

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