Hollywood icon Gregory Peck is known for starring in many classic films including To Kill a Mockingbird, Roman Holiday, and How the West Was Won (just to name a few!) but according to those closest to the late actor, Gregory’s most cherished role was that of a family man.
Long before he became an actor, Gregory’s world was shattered when his parents divorced when he was just 6 years old. The split ultimately changed the way the star thought about the importance of familial bonds. “He had bits of insecurity, being from a divorced family — that kind of sticks with you. He really had an appreciation of family, and he loved having people and family around him,” Gregory’s son Stephen Peck exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
In 1942, the actor tied the knot with Greta Kukkonen with whom he welcomed sons Jonathan Peck (who later sadly passed away from suicide in 1975), Stephen, 72, and Carey Paul Peck, 69. After Gregory rose to stardom, he was spending little time at home with his wife and the Pecks’ marriage subsequently ended in divorce after 13 years in 1955. “Everything hit at once. It reached a point where they were really going in different directions,” Lynn Haney Trowbridge, a friend and author of Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life, told Closer. “But what’s interesting is he stayed friends with her. It meant a lot that they could call up each other and talk, and that lasted all through his life.”
Though Gregory had a hard time with his first marriage ending in divorce — “I just felt awful about the boys,” he once said of the split — the actor found love again with French journalist Veronique Passani. “She had huge, glowing eyes and a face brimming with vitality and intelligence and heart and humor. I found myself when I found Veronique,” he said of the woman he married in 1955.
“They had a real soulmate kind of relationship. Anybody looking at it would think, Oh my God, to get that in my life!” Trowbridge said of Gregory and Veronique, who shared two children, Cecilia Peck, 60, and Anthony Peck, 62. “He wanted to be a good father, and he was able to do that in his second marriage.”
Despite welcoming more kids with his second wife, Stephen told Closer that Gregory remained close with his three eldest sons, too. “He liked bringing us all together. He wanted us to be one big, happy family, and that went on throughout his life,” he said.
After appearing in more than 60 films, Gregory retired from acting at 84 in 2000, just three years before he passed away in this sleep from bronchopneumonia in 2003 at age 87. “I saw him more in the last 10 years of his life than I ever did. I wanted my son to know his grandpa, and he did,” Stephen said, referring to Gregory’s famous grandson, Ethan Peck, who currently stars as the young Spock in CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery.
Today, Gregory’s family fondly remembers the Oscar winner as a man with decency, integrity, and humility. “He just had so much decency and integrity,” his daughter Cecilia told Closer. Stephen added, “He had a generosity and compassion that came through in his roles… At his core, he had a real humility. And at the same time, he would be extraordinarily proud that things he started were being carried on. That’s what you want to leave: a legacy you’re proud of.”
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