Tom Cruise has gone through three wives and countless girlfriends, but one woman always remained constant: his mother. Now she’s gone too.
Mary Lee South died at home in her sleep sometime last week, a rep for Cruise confirmed to USA Today. A service was held for her at her local Church of Scientology, attended by Cruise and his three sisters, Lee Ann DeVette, Cass Mapother and Marian Henry.
Cruise and his mother were extremely close, and it was thanks to her encouragement that he was first bitten by the acting bug. After suffering a knee injury while on the high school wrestling team, South pushed Cruise to join his school production of Guys and Dolls. Upon graduation, he asked her and his stepfather, Jack South, for their blessing to try to make a career of acting for 10 years.
But long before that, Mary South was a total powerhouse mom. She and Cruise’s father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III — a man the actor referred to as a “bully” in 2006 — split in 1974 and South took on the role of single mom to four kids immediately. While Mapother remained in Canada, South brought the kids back to the U.S. and kept them out of poverty by working as many as three jobs at a time.
According to a 1986 Rolling Stone article, one Christmas there was no money for gifts, so the family wrote poems for one another instead. Cruise contributed to the family with a paper route. After years of hard knocks, Cruise made sure to take care of his mom once he made it big.
“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.'”
But it’s possible their closeness caused a huge rift among other family members. Mary and Jack South split after 32 years of marriage following the birth of Suri, and many have placed the blame on Scientology. According to reports, when the Souths visited their new grandchild for the first time in 2006, Mary South never returned to her home in Florida — and she sent Jack South home without her. She and Cruise’s three sisters reportedly joined the Church of Scientology at Cruise’s urging, but when Jack refused, he was cut out and labeled an SP, or “suppressive person.”
Jack South died in 2015; Cruise and his mother skipped the funeral.
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