Jean Speegle Howard, the mother of director Ron Howard and an actress in her own right who had roles in his "Apollo 13" and many television programs, has died. She was 73.
Howard died Saturday in Burbank of complications of heart and respiratory illnesses, her family said.
Although she put her own acting career on hold to rear her two acting sons, Ron and Clint, the entertainer known as Jean Speegle made a spectacular comeback as an aging character actress during the last 15 years of her life.
She appeared among the senior citizens given new dignity in the 1985 "Cocoon," and went on to portray Mrs. Claus in the 1988 "Scrooged," an elderly woman in the 1992 "I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore" and a hospital volunteer in the 1994 "The Paper." In 1996, she played an elderly woman in "Black Sheep," Miss Phelps in "Matilda" and an asthmatic woman on tour in "My Fellow Americans." In her son's "Apollo 13" in 1995, she portrayed Blanch Lovell.
On television in recent years, she appeared in such series as "Homeboys in Outer Space," "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," "Ellen," "Roseanne," "Grace Under Fire," "Married With Children," "Unhappily Ever After," "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," "Two of a Kind" and "Norm." She also had roles in a number of television movies.
Born in Duncan, Okla., Jean Speegle studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Struck by a truck in 1946, she was unable to walk for several months but returned to the stage a year later at the University of Oklahoma. There, through actor and fellow student Dennis Weaver, she met the man who would become her husband of 51 years, actor and writer Rance Howard.
The Howards were married in Kentucky while touring with a children's theater company. She continued acting professionally through the early 1950s, and then concentrated on the roles of housewife and mother for nearly 30 years.
The actress is survived by her husband, sons and four grandchildren.
The family plans private services.