Mary Lee South, the mother of Tom Cruise, passed away last week from unknown causes, according to People Magazine.
She was 80 years old.
Sources tell the publication that South died peacefully in her sleep after a long battle with a number of health issues.
She was honored with a memorial service at her local Church of Scientology over the weekend.
The 54-year-old actor and his sisters – Lee Ann DeVette, 57, Cass Mapother, 55, and Marian Henry, 52 – all were in attendance at the memorial, along with other family and friends.
Cruise’s mother was born Mary Lee Pfeiffer in Louisville, Kentucky.
She worked as a special-education teacher when she got married to Cruise’s father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, who served as an electrical engineer.
Insiders have often said that Cruise developed his passion for acting from Mary Lee, who told Rolling Stone the following in 1986:
“I was always interested in theater, but I never did anything with it. When I was growing up, if you went to Hollywood, that was really risqué.”
Mary Lee and her kids lived in Syracuse, New York when Cruise was born; they later moved to Ottawa, Canada.
When Cruise was a child, Mary Lee encouraged her son to participate in a local theater group.
“I guess I was his greatest audience,” she said in that same Rolling Stone interview. “He had it in him then.”
Mary Lee divorced Mapother in 1974, with Cruise telling People decades later that his dad was “a bully.”
Following the end of her marriage, Mary Lee returned to the United States, where she worked a number of jobs to keep her family out of poverty.
Cruise did the best he could by earning money via a paper route.
He remained close to his mother even after she married Jack South in 1978 and the family relocated to Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
After a knee injury ended Cruise’s varsity wrestling career, Mary Lee convinced her son to try out for a high school production of Guys and Dolls.
Following the play, Cruise surprised his mother by asking if he could go ahead and give acting a try; he said he wanted to see how far he could get in 10 years.
Mary Lee approved – and, with her support, Cruise waited tables in New York City before breaking into the movies.
Cruise and his mom continued their close bond long into his wildly successful big screen career.
Per the same Rolling Stone article cited above, Cruise asked Mary Lee and her second husband if he could be an actor many years ago.
It was a question to which she replied:
“We both wholeheartedly agreed.”
“Because we both felt it was a God-given talent … So to make a long story short, we gave him our blessing – and the rest is history.”
It is, indeed.
Our condolences go out to Tom Cruise and his loved ones, and to all the families of stars we’ve already said goodbye to in 2017.