Published March 22, 2009
LITHGOW, N.Y. – A somber group of friends and family gathered in a small Hudson Valley town Sunday to say a final farewell to Tony Award-winning actress Natasha Richardson.
Liam Neeson, in a dark suit and sunglasses, was at the head of the casket as he and five other pallbearers carried his wife's coffin into St. Peter's Episcopal Church, near the home where the two married in 1994.
He and Richardson's mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, waved to the dozens of reporters crowded behind a police barricade on the dirt road leading to the tiny white clapboard church. The grieving family — including the couple's two sons, Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12 — then paused to allow the media to photograph them in front of church before the service.
After a graveside service under a large green tent, the 45-year-old actress was buried in a nearby cemetery, amid hilly horse farms about 80 miles north of New York City.
She was laid to rest near the grave of her maternal grandmother, the actress Rachel Kempson, who died while visiting her granddaughter and Neeson at their home in nearby Millbrook in 2003. Neeson and the Redgrave family, including Richardson's sister, actress Joely Richardson, visited Kempson's grave after the burial.
Richardson died Wednesday at a Manhattan hospital after falling while skiing Monday at the Mont Tremblant resort in the Canadian province of Quebec. The New York City medical examiner's office said Richardson suffered from an epidural hematoma, which causes bleeding between the skull and the brain's covering. She wasn't wearing a helmet when she fell.
Richardson is descended from one of Britain's great acting dynasties but built her own reputation in films such as "Patty Hearst" and "The Handmaid's Tale," as well as for her work on the stage. She won a Tony for her role in the 1998 revival of "Cabaret."
She costarred with future husband Neeson in the 1993 revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie." The two married at their secluded Millbrook home the next year.
The famous couple was well known in this area, which counts many celebrities among its part-time residents.
"She was a lovely lady," said local resident Steve Lyall. "We'll miss her in the community."
The ceremony Sunday caps off a grim week during which Neeson greeted a stream of friends and family during a private viewing Friday at the American Irish Historical Society. Celebrities paying respects this week included Diane Sawyer, Ethan Hawke and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Theaters on Broadway and London's West End dimmed their lights this week in honor of Richardson.
Her final feature film, "Wild Child," has been released internationally but not in the U.S., and Universal Pictures said a U.S. release date had not been scheduled.PHOTOS: Highlights from Natasha Richardson's quirky career