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Reese Witherspoon pays tribute to her 'other mother' Nanci Ryder

Ryder was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and had become a leading figure in the fight to find a cure.
Image: Angie Harmon, Reese Witherspoon, Courteney Cox, Nanci Ryder, Renee Zellweger
Richard Shotwell / AP
/ Source: TODAY

Nanci Ryder, one of Hollywood’s most influential publicists, passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on Thursday, June 11. She was 67 years old.

A breast cancer survivor, Ryder was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and had become a leading figure in the fight to find a cure. In the almost six years she lived with the disease, she raised $820,000 of her goal of $1 million to support the mission of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter.

Nanci Ryder
On Dec. 9, 2015, Nanci Ryder attends the The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Breakfast at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss / AP

The late publicist and advocate had a longstanding career for over 30 years, establishing Nanci Ryder Public Relations in 1984. Her clientele included Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker and Woody Harrelson.

After forming Baker/Winokur/Ryder Publications with Paul Baker and Larry Winokur in 1987, she guided the careers of Mariah Carey, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Garner, Renée Zellweger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lopez, among others.

Publicist Nanci Ryder Has Died at 67 Nanci Ryder's "Team Nanci" At The 13th Annual LA County Walk To Defeat ALS
Courteney Cox, Reese Witherspoon, Nanci Ryder and Renee Zellweger attend the 13th Annual Los Angeles County Walk to Defeat ALS on Oct. 18, 2015.Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Condolences poured in across social media, mourning the loss of the beloved Hollywood executive. Reese Witherspoon shared a slideshow of photographs throughout the years alongside Ryder, writing a touching caption about her publicist.

“Sometimes in life, if you are lucky, you meet someone who takes you under their wing and cares for you like a daughter,” Witherspoon wrote. “Nanci Ryder was that other mother to me. I met her when I was 19, and we traveled the world together promoting movies...France, Germany, UK, Australia, Brazil, many amazing places! But I loved our talks the most. Everyday after my kids went to school, she would call me to chat about shopping, purses, vintage jewelry, and about the 'Bachelor.''”

The 44-year-old actress recalls a call she received from Ryder, explaining that she was having trouble talking due to complications from ALS.

“Nanci lived with and fought ALS for 6 years,” she continued. “(My heart goes to everyone out there dealing with this devastating disease🙏🏻) Yesterday, my Nanci left this world. I’m so sad because I miss her so much, but now I know she is Heaven chatting with all her friends about purses, jewelry and she is looking down on me... smiling. ALWAYS. I LOVE YOU, Nanci.”

Reese Witherspoon, Nanci Ryder
Witherspoon and Ryder in 2014.Matt Sayles / AP

Sarah Michelle Geller also shared an emotional tribute to Ryder, posting a photo from over twenty years ago to her Instagram.

“This is Nanci Ryder,” she began the caption. “I am 21 in this picture, and it’s my first trip to Europe. Nanci was definitely the most sophisticated person I had ever met, and took me to so many firsts on that trip (like those traditional fish and chips) Nanci also came with me and Freddie, on our first trip as a couple. But more than that, Nanci is the reason that to this day, I’m surrounded by so many incredible female friends.”

The "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star continued, adding, “Nanci survived breast cancer only to be diagnosed with ALS. But till the end she fought with dignity and humor. And was a champion of fighting those battles. In your honor, I will never stop fighting. You presence will be missed Nanci, but your spirit remains with all of us. We love you.”

Publicist Nanci Ryder Has Died at 67 Nanci Ryder's "Team Nanci" Participates In The 16th Annual LA County Walk To Defeat ALS
Publicist Nanci Ryder passed away on June 11, 2020.Presley Ann / Getty Images

Funeral services will be held privately due to the coronavirus and a celebration of her life will be held at a later date.