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Lydia Clarke Heston, an actress and the wife of Oscar-winning actor Charlton Heston for 64 years until his death in 2008, died Monday at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, her family announced. She was 95.
A native of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and the daughter of a high school principal, she first met Charlton in drama class at Northwestern University and married him in 1944 in Asheville, North Carolina, just before he went overseas to serve in the Army Air Force during World War II.
After the war, the Hestons moved to New York, where they pursued acting careers. As Lydia Clarke, she performed on Broadway opposite Ralph Bellamy in Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story, which premiered in 1949.
In 1952, she co-starred with Gene Barry in her first feature, the Cold War thriller The Atomic City.
She played a circus girl in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which starred her husband, and during production was asked by Cecil B. DeMille’s publicist to help take some on-set photos.
When the movie wrapped, she dedicated herself to photography and raising her family. She traveled to remote locations, and her photos were exhibited in galleries around the world and in such books as Children Around the World, Mi Vida and Light of the World.
She was active in the civil rights movement alongside her husband and in 1963 took part in and photographed the March on Washington. She also contributed to such philanthropic institutions as the National Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation and the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
She revived her acting career from time to time, appearing alongside her husband in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters and in the 1967 Western Will Penny.
Charlton Heston, of course, was known for his work in such films as The Ten Commandments (1956), Touch of Evil (1958), Ben-Hur (1959), El Cid (1961) and Planet of the Apes (1968). He died on April 5, 2008, at age 84.
Survivors include their son Fraser, daughter Holly and grandchildren Jack, Ridley and Charlie. A private service will take place at St. Matthews Parish in Pacific Palisades.
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Sterling K. Brown