Dana Reeve

'Superwoman' widow

Wednesday 08 March 2006 01:00

Dana Morosini, singer, actress and campaigner: born New York 19 February 1961; married 1992 Christopher Reeve (died 2004; one son); died New York 6 March 2006.

Dana Reeve turned from singer and actress to full-time caregiver in 1995 when her husband, the Superman actor Christopher Reeve, fell from a horse during a competition in Virginia. The accident left him paralysed from the neck down. Over the ensuing years, Dana Reeve was barely away from her husband's side. He often said that he had considered suicide after his fall but that his wife's love gave him the courage to endure.

The couple established the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, dedicated to providing funding for research into cures for paralysis victims. To date it has made grants of about $55m for research, as well an additional $7.5m in quality-of-life grants for paralysis patients. The Reeves also lobbied together for an easing of restrictions on stem cell research, believed to hold out hope for a future cure for paralysis.

In 1999, Dana Reeve published Carepackages: letters to Christopher Reeve from strangers and other friends. She also received many awards for her work, including, most recently, the American Cancer Society's Mother of the Year Award. "She was a woman with an incredible heart," said Kathy Lewis, Chief Executive Officer of the Paralysis Foundation.

In 2004, Dana Reeve was acting in California when word reached her that her husband was losing a battle with a fierce infection. She made it back to the East Coast to be at his bedside when he died on 10 October. Last August, less than a year after her husband's death, Dana revealed that she was suffering from lung cancer. She only made her plight public, she admitted at the time, because she knew a tabloid was about to publish the story.

There had seemed hope, at first, that she could beat the disease. Four months ago, she appeared at a fund-raising gala for the Paralysis Foundation, for which she had become chairman, looking healthy and relaxed. "My prognosis looks better all the time," she told those attending. Asked how she kept her spirits up, she said: "I was married to a man who never gave up."

She was born Dana Morosini in 1961 in the affluent New York suburb of Scarsdale, where her father, Charles, was a cardiologist. A graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, Dana built a career that spanned singing, live theatre, film and television. She appeared on Broadway in More to Love, played several roles off-Broadway, including at the Manhattan Theatre Club and Joseph Papp's Public Theatre. Her television acting included guest-star appearances on Law & Order, Oz and All My Children.

In 1987 she met Christopher Reeve, already a Hollywood star and with two children from a relationship with the British agent and model Gae Exton, while appearing in cabaret at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. They were married in 1992 and had a son of their own, Will.

After Christopher Reeve's accident, many people referred to his wife as "Superwoman". "There was nothing superhuman about standing by Chris," she said. "Like, what's so saintly about that? Lucky me. I'm with him!"

David Usborne

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