A private service was held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Millbrook, N.Y., to mark the passing of the wife, mother, and Tony Award-winning actress who died tragically last week, after suffering a head injury while skiing in Montreal. Richardson’s husband of 15 years, Ballymena, Co. Antrim-born actor Liam Neeson, the couple’s two children, Miche_l, 13, and Daniel, 12, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave and sister, Joely Richardson, mourned the loss of a woman described by those who knew her as a kind, loving, and talented person.
Neeson, 56, wore a dark suit and occasionally hid his eyes behind sunglasses. He posed briefly with the family for press photographs outside the small, white clapboard church before the service, his gracious wave a stark contrast to the pain etched on his face.
After the hearse arrived, Neeson tenderly touched the gleaming mahogany casket, which was decorated with a Claddagh symbol. Then, with six other pallbearers, he carried it up the stairs and into the sanctuary. The mourners, who included actors Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Timothy Dalton and Laura Linney, filed inside as the church bell rang out.
After the funeral service, which lasted approximately one hour, the family drove to nearby St. Peter’s Cemetery for the burial service. Under a green canopy, the family prayed and said a final goodbye to their beloved Natasha, placing flowers atop the coffin as it was lowered into the grave. Afterwards, the family visited the resting place of Richardson’s maternal grandmother, actress Rachel Kempson, who is buried in a nearby plot. As the family departed after the service, Neeson remained behind, alone, for a private goodbye.
The funeral service marked the final scene of an agonizing week for Neeson, his sons and the Redgrave family.
A fatal accident
On Monday, March 16, Richardson suffered a head injury after taking a fall on a beginners’ ski slope at the Mont Tremblant resort, 80 miles north of Montreal. Although she was not wearing a protective helmet, Richardson did not appear to be seriously hurt. Following strict protocol, the ski patrol escorted her back to her hotel, and urged her to see a doctor, which she declined to do. Approximately an hour later, the actress developed a severe headache, and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, and then transferred to a hospital in Montreal. Neeson, who was filming the movie “Chloe” in Toronto, raced to his wife’s bedside.
On Tuesday, Richardson was flown to New York, and admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Doctors determined that she had suffered brain death, and that there was no hope of recovery. The family wrestled with the decision of removing life support. The Tony Award-winning actress died on Wednesday afternoon, March 18, surrounded by her family. According to the New York Daily News, as Richardson slipped away, Vanessa Redgrave gently stroked her daughter’s face and sang a lullabye, “Edelweiss,” from the musical, “The Sound of Music.”
Neeson’s spokesman, Alan Nierob, announced the actress’s passing on Wednesday evening.
“Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha,” Neirob said. “They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”
On Friday, March 20, the family held a private wake at the American Irish Historical Society on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
A love story
Richardson’s death brought an end to a brilliant career on stage and film, and a screen-worthy love story between two actors of widely different backgrounds: the classically-trained scion of a legendary British acting family and the former amateur boxer from Co. Antrim.
The couple met in 1993, when they co-starred on Broadway in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie.” Within a year, Neeson and Richardson were married, and had settled in New York City and Millbrook, N.Y. They juggled film and theater roles around family commitments, as they raised their sons, Mich