Mary Lee South, the mother of Tom Cruise, died at age 80 last week. Cruise’s family had a memorial service at her local Church of Scientology, with the famous actor and his three sisters – Lee Ann DeVette, Cass Mapother and Marian Henry – there.
Here’s a look at South’s life.
1. She Was Dealing With Health Issues in Recent Years
People Magazine reports that South died peacefully in her sleep. The magazine reports that she had health issues in recent years.
Cruise’s three sisters joined the actor at a memorial for their mother, who was a special education teacher. She was born Mary Lee Pfeiffer in Louisville, Kentucky.
In May 2016, The Daily Mail published photos of South in Clearwater, Florida, where Scientology has its headquarters. It was the first time South had been seen publicly since the 2009 Golden Globe Awards and she was helped by two nurses.
“It seemed like a massive effort for Mary and she clearly wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” a witness told the Daily Mail.
2. She Was Responsible For Inspiring Tom Cruise to Act
In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone, South said that she was responsible for Cruise being inspired to act. She thought she had the talent to break into Hollywood herself.
“I was always interested in theater, but I never did anything with it,” she told Rolling Stone. “When I was growing up, if you went to Hollywood, that was really risque. I would have lost my religion, my morals, all those things that young girls thought of back then.”
Cruise was born in Syracuse, New York, but the family frequently moved and he even spent time in Canada. South told Rolling Stone in 1986 that she would find time to work with a local theater group and Cruise would get involved with creating skits.
“He used to create skits and imitate Donald Duck and Woody Woodpecker and W.C. Fields when he was just a tiny tot,” South told Rolling Stone. “I guess I was his greatest audience. He had it in him then. But as he got older, he was more into sports, and it stopped completely.”
3. South & Cruise’s Father, Thomas Mapother III, Divorced in 1974
South was married to Cruise’s father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, an electrical engineer. They divorced in 1974. His father died from cancer in 1984.
Cruise once described his father as a “bully” in an interview with People.
“He was a bully and a coward,” Cruise said of his father in 2006 Parade Magazine interview. “He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.’ There’s that anxiety.”
He said that he saw his mother support the family by holding three jobs.
“People can create their own lives,” Cruise told Parade. “I saw how my mother created hers and so made it possible for us to survive. My mother was the one who rose to the occasion. She held three jobs. She said, ‘We’re going to get through this.”
4. There Were Rumors May Lee South Died in 2015 After She Hadn’t Been Seen in Public in Years
Back in August 2015, The National Enquirer reported that Cruise’s mother hadn’t been seen for years, which fueled speculation that she already died. Public records showed that she was moved to Belmont Village of Hollywood Heights, a mile from the Scientology building, in November 2014, according to the tabloid.
She had been living in Cruise’s Beverly Hills mansion before being moved.
In May 2016, the Daily Mail published a photo of South in Clearwater, Florida during a Mother’s Day boating trip. It was the first photo of her in public in seven years.
5. She Later Married John South, Who Reportedly Refused to Join Scientology
South married John “Jack” South in 1978, when Cruise was 16, reports Celebrity Dirty Laundry. Although Cruise and his sisters were close to South, he reportedly refused to convert to Scientology. South and his mother divorced in 2010.
South died in July 2015. The Sun reported that both Cruise and his mother skipped the funeral. He was 89 years old and a World War II veteran. He was being treated at a hospital in Florida at the time of his death.