French-born Veronique Peck, who was the widow of actor Gregory Peck and an ardent supporter of civic and cultural causes in her adopted country, died Friday of heart failure at her Los Angeles home, her family said. She was 80.
As a young journalist, Veronique met Peck in 1953 when she interviewed him for a French newspaper. They were married on New Year’s Eve 1955, soon after his divorce from his first wife was finalized.
“I just participate in everything Greg does. I like it that way. I am not a career woman,” Veronique told The Times in 1967 when the newspaper named her Woman of the Year.
Beneath her “I’m just a housewife exterior,” the article pointed out, was a dedicated professional and effective fundraiser. In the late 1960s, she helped her husband raise $50 million for the American Cancer Society.
During the same era, Veronique also raised $50,000 through a fashion show she staged to benefit a favorite cause, the Inner City Repertory theater, a South Los Angeles center that introduced teens to the arts for at least a decade beginning in 1966.
More recently, she persuaded Harper Lee, the reclusive author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,"to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award in 2005. While in Los Angeles, Lee stayed with Veronique, a friend since Gregory Peck starred in the 1962 film made from Lee’s book. He won an Oscar for the role.
On April 5, Veronique and her family marked the 50th anniversary of the film at a private White House screening hosted by President Obama on what would have been the actor’s 96th birthday.
When he died at 87 in 2003, Veronique took over producing the Gregory Peck Reading Series, a program that features celebrities reading from literature to raise funds for the Los Angeles Public Library.
Veronique Passani was born in 1932 in Paris to an architect and his artist-writer wife.
Of her first interview with movie star Peck, she told The Times in 1967: “I thought him an extraordinary man. I was simply happy to have met him; that was all.”
She met him again when he traveled to Europe to make the 1953 film"Roman Holiday.”
In Los Angeles, the couple raised their two children in Holmby Hills, and Veronique became a U.S. citizen in 1976.
“What you saw on screen with Greg was what you saw off-screen,” said Monroe Friedman, a longtime family publicist. “The same could be said of her. They were together a half-century. You never saw two people more delighted with each other.”
She is survived by her children, writer-producer Anthony Peck and documentary filmmaker Cecilia Peck Voll; a brother, Dr. Cornelius Passani; and three grandchildren.