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Lee Fierro, the actress known for playing bereaved Mrs. Kintner in Steven Spielberg's 1975 big screen adaptation of Jaws, has died at the age of 91 from coronavirus complications. The unfortunate news was first reported by the Martha's Vineyard Times, which writes that Fierro was residing at an assisted living home in Ohio prior to her death.
Born Elizabeth Lee Fierro in February of 1929, Ms. Fierro was one of the last-living adult cast members from Jaws in addition to Richard Dreyfuss (72) and Lorraine Gary (82).
Robert Shaw (Quint, the eccentric shark hunter), Murray Hamilton (Vaughn, the sleazy mayor of Amity Island), and Roy Scheider (Martin Brody, Amity's good-natured police chief) all passed away in 1978, 1986, and 2008 respectively.
In the film, which many consider to be the first modern summer blockbuster, Fierro played the mother of Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees), the young boy who is killed by the great white shark while swimming on his yellow raft in the ocean. Shortly after Alex's death, a grieving Mrs. Kintner slaps Chief Brody out in public, driving home the fatal repercussions of his poor decision to allow the beaches to remain open after the attack on Chrissie Watkins.
Fierro would reprise her role for the franchise's third and infamous sequel, Jaws: The Revenge (1987). Over the years, fans of the original movie would apparently come up to the actress, asking for her to slap them.
“How many times have I been asked to slap somebody…? I’ve never counted,” the actress said in 2012. “It happens a lot, and it is mostly young men. I do it to please the fans, but last year, I decided that is it. I have slapped my last slap."
Jeffrey Voorhees (who had just moved to the island when production on Jaws began) never acted in another film, but did open up a bar/restaurant on Martha's Vineyard, which features the “Alex Kintner Burger” on its menu. During an interview in 2014, he recounted a comedic anecdote about how he once reunited with Fierro when she came into his establishment with a friend.
“The one word I would think of when I think of Lee, is dedication," Kevin Ryan, artistic director and board president for Island Theatre Workshop, relayed to the MV Times.
A decades-long resident of the Massachusetts island that stood in for Amity, Fierro was an emphatic champion of the program. Throughout her time there, it is estimated that she taught and mentored over 1,000 acting hopefuls. She served as artistic director of the Workshop for close to 30 years and was still involved with it as she entered her 80s. In 2017, she moved to Ohio to be closer to her family.
"I’ve watched her as a performer, director, and business woman, and then we became friends," Ryan continued. "She was my teacher and mentor. I would still call Lee for artistic discussion and commentary … She was fiercely dedicated to the mission of teaching. She, no matter what it was, would stay at it and get the job done.”
A small service will be held by her family in Ohio. The acting community of Martha's Vineyard hopes to hold their own memorial once social distancing mandates are lifted.