Patrick Swayze passed away on Monday, September 14th after a 20-month long battle with pancreatic cancer. He just turned 57 years old in August, and he was still working on his A&E series The Beast just months ago, as he was going through chemotherapy. Swayze had a reputation in Hollywood as one of the nicest, most decent men around. He always made time for his fans, he was always an utter professional, and according to nearly every story I’ve ever read about the man, he never failed to bring out the best in people. His male fans loved him for his iconic work in films like Road House and Red Dawn. His female fans loved him for his iconic roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Everybody loved him as Bodhi in Point Break. Through his career, he worked on more than 47 films and television projects, and he was nominated for three Golden Globes. Swayze is survived by his wife of 32 years, Lisa.
Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Monday. He was 57.
“Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” his rep tells PEOPLE in a statement.
A gifted dancer, a rugged outdoorsman, a romantic leading man and a loving husband, Swayze was also, as his brother Don put it, “a warrior” in his cancer fight.
The actor continued working on his A&E series The Beast even as he underwent chemotherapy – and never lost hope. About his prognosis, he did admit in a Barbara Walters interview that aired in January, “There’s a lot of fear here. Yeah, I’m scared. Yeah, I’m angry. Yeah, I’m [asking], ‘Why me?’ ”
A month before, Swayze had issued a statement to PEOPLE in regard to speculation about his health, saying that such questions “cast a negative shadow on the positive and good fight I’m fighting.”
One of five children raised in Houston, Texas, by Patsy, a dance teacher, and Jesse, a champion rodeo cowboy, Swayze grew up dancing in his mom’s studio and met his future wife, Lisa Niemi, when the two teenagers were both students there.
It was the beginning of one of Hollywood’s most enduring romances: Swayze and Niemi, 53, were married 32 years.
Over the years, the couple – both pilots who often flew together and who shared a love of horseback riding and the outdoors – would see Swayze’s career take off.
Dirty Dancing and Ghost
After breaking through in 1983′s The Outsiders, he secured a spot in movie romance history with iconic turns in 1987′s Dirty Dancing and 1990′s Ghost. In all his roles, he cited Lisa as an inspiration.
“Lisa and I have built just about every character I’ve done,” he told PEOPLE in 2007. “You have to understand, we have an ease. … We’ve been partners for a long time.”
It was Lisa who proved a “pillar of strength” during the trying past year, said her brother-in-law Don. United in their focus to overcome the awful odds – pancreatic cancer has just a 5 percent survival rate within five years of diagnosis – the couple maintained a fierce determination.
In fall 2008, he told The New York Times that although chemo had been “hell on wheels,” he refused to quit fighting.
“There is probably that little bird that flies through your insides and says, ‘I sure would like to make a mark in life,’” he said. “I’ve made a pretty decent mark so far – nothing to scoff at. But it does make you think: Wait a minute. There’s more I want to do. Lots more. Get on with it.”
Within minutes of the announcement, Swayze’s friends, fans and former coworkers took to Twitter to pay their respects. Two of the best comments, in my opinion: “So saddened by this news. RIP dear Patrick, my fellow greaser. You fought the fight like no other. With dignity and grace.” (Ralph Macchio, Swayze’s costar in The Outsiders); “I’ll never forget the electricity I felt when I saw Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Even more charismatic in person. A true gentleman. RIP” (Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin). I’m sending my thoughts and prayers to Patrick’s family and friends, and hoping that his death is treated with the respect, dignity and care with which he lived his life.
Here are Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi dancing at the World Music Awards in 1994
And a clip from Ghost
Photo Credits: WENN.com and Fame Pictures