Veronique Peck, the widow of legendary actor Gregory Peck and a long-time active figure in the cultural life of Los Angeles, died Friday, Aug. 17 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 80.
Veronique and Gregory Peck in 1990 (©Retna)
The cause was heart failure, said her children, Anthony Peck and Cecilia Peck Voll.
She and Gregory Peck were married for nearly 50 years, until his death in 2003.
Find: Hollywood's longest-lasting
Witty, intellectual, and a sparkling conversationalist known for hosting lively soirees in her Holmby Hills home, Veronique Passani Peck was born in Paris, the daughter of architect Antoine Passani, and Russian artist Alexandra Passani.
She was educated at Marymount, and later became a reporter for the leading French daily, France Soir. She interviewed leaders in the arts and politics, from Colette to General Dwight Eisenhower, Samuel Goldwyn, and on a life changing occasion, Gregory Peck.
The story of their love affair could have come from the movies. After their interview, Peck went to Italy to film "Roman Holiday," and months later upon his return to Paris, called the newspaper to track down the beautiful young journalist.
Also on TheWrap: Helen Gurley Brown, Groundbreaking Cosmopolitan
Editor, Dead at 90
As he told it, he heard the loudspeaker announce, "Veronique Passani, c'est Monsieur Gregory Peck au telephone," and the busy newsroom went silent. When she reached the phone he reminded her of their meeting and invited her to lunch that day. She hesitated, so he asked if she had a boyfriend. She said she didn't, but still wouldn't agree to lunch. He persisted, and their lunch at a Left Bank restaurant marked the beginning of a love story that lasted for more than 50 years.
Much later, she told him why it had taken her so long to say yes. "I wasn't going to tell you this," she confessed, "but I had an interview that day with Dr. Albert Schweitzer. At the apartment of Jean-Paul Sartre."
Gregory famously replied, "Well, you made the right choice, kiddo."
Veronique moved to the United States with Gregory at age 23 and began her
life at her husband's side, actively supporting and sharing in many of his film
industry and personal interests. During his Chairmanship of the American
Cancer Society in 1966, they toured 26 cities and together raised over $50
million for cancer research. She helped to create and was principal
fundraiser for the Inner City Cultural Center, an interracial theatre group in
South Central Los Angeles. She was voted Woman of the Year by the Los
Angeles Times in recognition of her work as a Founder of the Los Angeles Music
In 1976, Veronique Peck became an American citizen, one of her proudest moments. She never lost her French elegance, charm or the trace of a French accent, but as she put it, "I am French by birth, American by choice."
Gregory and Veronique were known to have one of Hollywood's most loving and
enduring marriages. They rarely left each others' side, and on film locations
she would run lines with him and create the ambience of home in hotels or rental
houses around the world. He called her his soul mate.
When producer Alan Pakula made the auspicious call to offer Gregory the role of Atticus Finch in a then unknown Southern writer's first book, Gregory asked him to please send over two galley copies so that he and Veronique could read it at the same time.
They loved travelling, especially to Paris,and were frequent guests at the Elysee Palace during the presidency of their friend, Jacques Chirac. At home in Los Angeles, they often gathered friends around the dinner table in the beautiful home they had created together, as Veronique continued to do after Gregory's passing in 2003.
At that time, Veronique took over producing the Gregory Peck Reading Series,
which raises funds for the Los Angeles Public Library by bringing celebrated
actors to read in the Central Library. One of the cultural jewels of Los
Angeles, the prestigious Series has welcomed actors from Morgan Freeman to
Vanessa Redgrave, Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Sharon Stone, Robert Forster,
Angelica Huston, Dick Van Dyke, Sally Field, Mark Ruffalo, lyricists Alan and
Marilyn Bergman, and many more.
In 2009, Veronique was honored with the Light of Learning Award from the Los Angeles Library Foundation
She helped produce the memorable ceremony in 2011 celebrating the unveiling of Gregory's USPS "Forever" postage stamp as Atticus Finch, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
In April of 2012, she travelled to Washington for President Obama's private White House screening marking the 50th anniversary of "To Kill A Mockingbird."
Veronique is survived by her two children, writer/producer Anthony Peck, and documentary filmmaker Cecilia Peck Voll, by her brother Dr. Cornelius Passani, and her three grandchildren, Zack Peck (20,) Harper Peck-Voll (13,) and Ondine Peck-Voll (10).
The Peck family is planning a private service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, where she will be laid to rest next to her husband Gregory. Donations in her memory may be made to the Los Angeles Library Foundation.
Mr. Peck was one of my favorite actors of the era. I appreciate the contributions he and his wife mad off screen aswell. Thank you, and RIP.
Condolences to her family and friends
What a beautiful love story. Gregory Peck is one of a kind actor, a true and great, wonderful actor. whom I admired always. He was always a charming man. Hollywood is nothing these days without great actors like Mr. Peck. His wife, Veronique is a gracious, beautiful and intelligent woman. Their marriage was made in heaven. These days, very, very few actors don't even have a long, enduring marriage.
May Veronique and Gregory meet again in heaven and live happily ever after.
Rest in Peace, Veronique. Thoughts and sympathy to your family and friends.