Patty Duke Dead at 69

The former child star, who went on to have a lifelong career on stage and screen, has died of sepsis from a perforated intestine.

Published March 29, 2016

Patty Duke, perhaps best known for the eponymous Patty Duke Show sitcom and her subsequent role in Valley of the Dolls, has died. She was 69.

Born Anna Marie Duke in 1946, Patty was the daughter of a violently depressive cashier and an alcoholic cab driver. Her mother turned her over to talent managers to raise her when she was just 8 years old, became famous first on stage, then in film playing a young Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (for which she won an Oscar, the youngest person ever to do so at that time).

Duke privately struggled with bipolar disorder, which she revealed in her 1987 autobiography, Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke.  She told the Los Angeles Times that her children suffered because of it:

I had no patience.... This was not all the time. The thing that these kids had going against them was that you never knew when what was all hunky-dory was going to fly out the window and you were going to be screamed at and berated and either ostracized or made to do some humiliating punishment.

She went on to become an outspoken advocate for the mentally ill, working with the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Duke died of sepsis from a perforated intestine. She is survived by her husband, Michael Pearce, and her three children: Kevin Pearce, Mackenzie Astin, and Sean Astin, who announced her death on social media:  

I love you mom.OUR FAMILY STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF PATTY DUKEThis morning, our beloved wife, mother, grandmother,...

Posted by Sean Astin on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Brooke Binkowski is a former editor for Snopes.

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