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Gregory Peck's Widow, Veronique Passani, Dies at 80

Veronique Passani Peck - 2012 P

The French-born patron of the arts was married to the legendary actor for 48 years.

Veronique Passani Peck, the widow of Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck and a longtime arts patron, has died. She was 80.

Family publicist Monroe Friedman says Veronique died Friday of heart failure at her Los Angeles home.

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Born in Paris, Veronique met the actor when he was en route to Italy to star in Roman Holiday (1953) and she interviewed him for the newspaper France Soir.

At age 23, she moved to the U.S. and married the handsome leading man on New Year's Eve 1955, one day after the divorce from his first wife, Greta Kukkonen, was finalized. Their marriage lasted 48 years until his death in June 2003 at age 87 from bronchopneumonia.

Veronique Peck helped create the Inner City Cultural Center in South Los Angeles, was a founder of the Los Angeles Music Center and a longtime fund-raiser for the Los Angeles Public Library. In the late 1960s, she helped her husband raise $50 million for the American Cancer Society.

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Gregory Peck won the best-actor Oscar for the 1962 classic To Kill a Mockingbird and starred in such other films as The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Twelve O'Clock High (1949), How the West Was Won (1962), The Omen (1976) and The Boys From Brazil (1978).

In April, Veronique and her family marked the 50th anniversary of the release of To Kill a Mockingbird at a private White House screening hosted by President Obama. In 2005, she persuaded the novel's author Harper Lee to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award.

She is survived by two children, writer-producer Anthony Peck and documentary filmmaker Cecilia Peck Voll, a brother and three grandchildren.