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IrishCentral.com's own Father Tim on loss and death
Irish Americans have been paying tribute to tragic actress Natasha Richardson.
Richardson, wife of Irish actor Liam Neeson, died from injuries received in a skiing accident on Monday. She was 45.
Neeson, 56, her mother, Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, 72, and two sons, Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12, had kept vigil at the stricken star's bedside after she was flown from Canada to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York on Tuesday.
Hollywood star Lindsey Lohan said she was stunned by the news. Lohan, who was just 12 when she starred with Richardson in “The Parent Trap,” said: “She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss."
Neeson and Richardson were both active members of the Irish-American community in New York.
Neeson, alongside friend and fellow Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, are well known patrons of The Irish Arts Center, the 51 Street institution that has launched the film careers of Irish directors like Terry George and Jim Sheridan.
Neeson has been a long-term supporter of the arts center, attending its annual fundraisers and productions, and over the years he has forged a close personal friendship with Pauline Turley, the Vice Chairman of the theatre’s board.
The art center’s staff were shocked and saddened to hear of Richardson’s tragic passing. In a statement to IrishCentral they wrote:
“The Irish Arts Center mourns the tragic passing of Natasha Richardson. Natasha was a wonderful actress and devoted mother. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to our dear friend and patron Liam, their beloved children Michael and Daniel and their entire family. They are all in our thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.”
Colm McKeever, a friend of Neeson’s who represents the horse and carriage drivers in Central Park, said Richardson's death was a true tragedy.
When animal rights people were protesting about the horse and carriage teams in Central Park, Neeson wrote to the New York City Council in defense of the Irishmen and women who make their living ferrying tourists round Central Park.
"She was one of Broadway's brightest lights and a great New Yorker,” said McKeever. “Our deepest sympathies and prayers are shared with Natasha's loving, devoted husband and our friend Liam Neeson, their two beautiful children Michael and Daniel, and her extraordinary mother Vanessa Redgrave. Natasha was truly beautiful, inside and out."
Fr. Joe O'Hare, the former president of Fordham University, and a friend of Neeson's, said that he could only "imagine the sorrow that Liam feels right now. My heart goes out to him. I'm just waiting to hear what the funeral arrangements are."
"I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Natasha Richardson,” said hotelier John Fitzpatrick, owner of Fitzpatrick Hotels Group.
“My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to Liam, their boys and their family at this tremendously difficult time. She will be missed and always remain in our hearts and thoughts."
Briege McGarrity, a partner at New York-based public relations firm Independent Film Group, described Richardson's passing as “truly devastating. My heart aches for her adoring husband Liam Neeson and their sons Daniel and Michael and their entire family circle. I have always admired Richardson's exceptional acting talents. She always seemed to exude a glow of happiness and contentment.”
George Heslin, the Dublin-born Artistic Director of Origin Theatre Company and the New York Irish Theatre Festival said he was saddened to hear of Richardson’s passing.
Heslin first met Neeson and his wife in 1997 while acting in a Brian Friel’s “Philadelphia Here I Come.”
Tributes also came in from Ballymena, the Northern Ireland town where Neeson grew up.
“I know that the people of Ballymena will join with me in this expression of sympathy,” said Declan O’Loan, Northern Ireland assembly member for the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
“There is immense pride here in the achievements of Liam Neeson as an internationally known actor and one of great distinction. His large family circle here in Ballymena and the surrounding area are very well known and highly respected.”
Richardson, whose father died of AIDS, was a tireless advocate on behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a HIV/AIDS fundraising organization.
Its executive director Tom Viola told IrishCentral: “Natasha Richardson's brilliant talent was enhanced with a rare generosity of spirit. Her concern for those facing life's hardships, particularly the challenges of AIDS, was graceful and steadfast. She will be greatly missed.”