- Associated Press - Monday, August 9, 2010

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Patricia Neal, the willowy, husky-voiced actress who won an Academy Award for 1963’s “Hud” and then survived several strokes to continue acting, died on Sunday. She was 84.

Miss Neal, who had lung cancer, died surrounded by her family at her home in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard.

“She faced her final illness as she had all of the many trials she endured: with indomitable grace, good humor and a great deal of her self-described stubbornness,” her family said in a statement.

Miss Neal was already an award-winning Broadway actress when she won her Oscar for her role as a housekeeper to the Texas father (Melvyn Douglas) battling his selfish, amoral son (Paul Newman).

Less than two years later, in 1965, she suffered a series of strokes at age 39. Her struggle to once again walk and talk is regarded as epic in the annals of stroke rehabilitation. She returned to the screen to earn another Oscar nomination and three Emmy nominations.

The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, which helps people recover from strokes and spinal cord and brain injuries, is named for her in Knoxville, where she grew up.

“She never forgot us after she went to Hollywood,” said 85-year-old Bud Albers, who graduated with Miss Neal from Knoxville High School in 1943 and still lives in the city.

Whenever she was in town, a bunch of her friends would get together and have dinner, Mr. Albers said. She had wanted to be there next week for a golf tournament that benefits the center, he said.

“She was so courageous,” he said of her battling back from her illnesses and losing her 7-year-old daughter to measles in 1962. “She always fought back. She was very much an inspiration.”

In her 1988 autobiography, “As I Am,” she wrote, “Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy, and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison.”

Miss Neal projected force that almost crackled on the screen. Her forte was drama, but she had a light touch that enabled her to do comedy, too.

She had the female leads in the 1949 film version of the Ayn Rand novel “The Fountainhead,” the classic 1951 science fiction film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and Elia Kazan’s 1957 drama “A Face in the Crowd.”

She made a grand return to the screen after her strokes in 1968, winning an Oscar nomination for her performance in “The Subject Was Roses.”

In 1971, she played Olivia Walton in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” a made-for-TV film that served as the pilot for the CBS series “The Waltons.” It brought her the first of her three Emmy nominations.

“You can’t give up,” she said in a 1999 Associated Press interview. “You sure want to, sometimes.”

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