Maureen O'Hara of 'The Parent Trap' and 'Miracle On 34th Street' Dies at 95

Pam WrightLife

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Maureen O'Hara, best known for her roles in Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap, died Saturday in her sleep in her Boise, Idaho home, her family told the Irish Times.

She was 95.

"It is with a sad heart that we share the news that Maureen O'Hara passed away today in her sleep of natural causes," her family said in a statement to the Times.

"Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, The Quiet Man," the family said in its statement.

The Dublin-born actress and the second of six children born to Charles and Marguerita FitzSimons was a Hollywood legend and, later in life, a savvy business woman. She was the CEO of Antilles Air Boats, which flew tourists around the Caribbean islands, and was owner and columnist of the Virgin Islander, a monthly tourist magazine that was sold in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

O'Hara began acting at age 6 and joined the renowned Abbey Theatre by age 14.

By the time she arrived in Hollywood, she had already experienced a stellar career in London. Once in California, the 5'8" red-headed starlet worked with nearly every big name movie star of the day, including Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and her great friend John Wayne, with whom she starred in five films, including director John Ford's 1950 Rio Grande and his enduring 1952 The Quiet Man.

Known as the "Queen of Technicolor," O'Hara was married to director George Hanley Brown and director William Price, with whom she had her only child, daughter Bronwyn Bridget. It was in 1956 that O'Hara would find her true love, although John Wayne was clearly her ideal man. In 1956, on her first flight back to Ireland since the end of World War II, O'Hara met Charles Blair, an Air Force hero who held a transatlantic flight record.

Married and the father of four at the time, the two became friends until 1967, when he divorced. They married a year later.

Within five years, after making TV's 1973 The Red Pony, "Maureen gave up everything just to be a good wife," her brother Charles FitzSimons told People magazine.

Her final performance was in The Last Dance, a 2000 TV movie.

She and her husband then ran Antilles Air Boats from their home in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands, building it into a 27-plane commercial fleet ranging the upper Caribbean and grossing $5 million a year.

Their dreams were ended in 1978, when Blair was killed after the amphibious aircraft Blair was flying developed engine trouble and crashed in the sea.

O'Hara became the first woman to run a U.S. airline until 1979, when she sold controlling stock to Resorts International, remaining as company president until 1981.

Maureen O'Hara led a long and illustrious life and has reflected many times on her life.

"My first ambition was to be the No. 1 actress in the world," she said in 1999, according to the Associated Press. "And when the whole world bowed at my feet, I would retire in glory and never do anything again."

"Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life," the family said in its statement about the actress. "She was also proudly Irish and spent her entire lifetime sharing her heritage and the wonderful culture of the Emerald Isle with the world. As much as Maureen cherished her privacy, she always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

"She especially loved it when children recognized her from her role in Miracle on 34th Street and asked her: 'Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?' She always answered: 'Yes I am. What would you like me to tell him?'"

In 2014, O'Hara was awarded an honorary Academy Award inscribed with, "To Maureen O'Hara, one of Hollywood's brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength."

O'Hara will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside her husband.

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Maureen," the family said in its statement about the actress, "we have a simple request: visit Ireland one day and think of her."

Pam Wright