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Soap Star Jennifer Leak Dead at 76 Following Neurological Disorder Diagnosis

Soap Actress Jennifer Leak Dead at 76 Following Neurological Disorder Diagnosis 693
Screen Archives/Getty Images

Former soap actress Jennifer Leak has died at the age 76.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of Jennifer Leak’s passing,” Leak’s ex-husband Tim Matheson wrote via Facebook on Wednesday, March 27. “She wasn’t just my screen sister in Yours, Mine, and Ours, but also my beloved first wife. Jennifer was a remarkable woman, strong, lovely, and incredibly talented. My deepest condolences go out to her husband of 47 years, James D’Auria, and their multitude of friends.”

Matheson was married to Leak from 1968 to 1971. Following their divorce, Leak moved on with husband James D’Auria. The couple tied the knot in April 1977.

According to Leak’s obituary in the East Hampton Star, she passed away on March 18 at her home in Jupiter, Florida. D’Auria revealed in the post that his wife was suffering from a rare neurological disease, progressive supranuclear palsy.

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Progressive supranuclear palsy, also known as Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome, is a rare brain disease that affects walking, balance, eye movements and swallowing, per the Mayo Clinic.

Leak was diagnosed with the illness seven years earlier. She had been participating in research programs to combat the condition.

“Her courage and bravery tried in vain to fight the disease,” D’Auria penned in the obit, noting that Leak donated her brain tissue to the Mayo Clinic to aid in further research for the disease which has no cure at the moment.

Soap Actress Jennifer Leak Dead at 76 Following Neurological Disorder Diagnosis 692
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leak is survived by D’Auria and brother Kenneth, who lives in Toronto. Her ashes will be scattered in the graveyard of her childhood church in Rumney, Wales, per the obit.

Leak moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She made her on-screen debut in the 1968 film, Yours, Mine and Ours, as she starred as Lucille Ball’s daughter. She continued to snag roles in several TV dramas including Hawaii Five-0, Nero Wolfe and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

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“[Leak was] a shy and private person, never desiring to be the center of attention or having the need for an audience,” D’Auria said of his wife’s career. “She saved those feelings and exhibited them only when on camera, and then she became electric.”

In 1971, Leak made her soap opera debut in Bright Promise where she portrayed Elaine Bancroft. After finding her passion for soaps, she continued to work on daytime dramas and made appearances in The Young and the Restless, Another World, Guiding Light and One Life to Live. She made her last TV appearance in 1992 in the series Loving.

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