Unbeknownst to many, Tom Cruise’s mother Mary Lee South died in her sleep last week at the age of 80. The mother of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors struggled with health problems over the years. The 54-year-old “Jack Reacher” actor, along with his sisters Lee Ann DeVette, Marian Henry, and Cass Mapother, held a memorial service for their mother at her local Church of Scientology over the weekend. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, South was born Mary Lee Pfeiffer and was a special-education teacher when she married Cruise’s father, Thomas Cruise Mapother, III.

Tom Cruise’s passion for acting came from his mom. In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, South said she had always been interested in theater, but never did anything with it. She further stated that during her time growing up, going to Hollywood was considered to be really risqué.

A star is born

South stated that she saw something in her only son at a young age and would encourage him to get involved with a local theater. However, Cruise had a greater love for sports. Sidelined from wrestling due to a knee injury, Cruise found himself being persuaded by his mother to try out for his high school production of “Guys and Dolls.” Afterward, Cruise asked his mom if he could wait 10 years to pursue a career in show business.

She gave the green light and he waited tables before his big break in Movies came, making him a major box-office star.

Investing in a child’s success

In 2006, Cruise told People magazine that his parent’s marriage was a tumultuous one and ended in divorce in 1974. Cruise also described his father as a bully. After moving back to the U.S.

from Canada, South worked several jobs to take care of her children. Cruise helped out by taking a paper route and would massage his mother’s feet after a hard day at work. When he was 16, his mother married Jack South in 1978, and the family settled in New Jersey. Mary Lee South, who often accompanied her famous son on the red carpet, said she always believed her boy would be successful. In return, Tom Cruise said that he knew she was proud of him.