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August 9, 2022 10:28 am
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‘Grease’ Actress and Singer Olivia Newton-John, of Jewish-German Descent, Dies at 73

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Olivia Newton-John in 2017. Photo: FESTIVALDEVINACHIE via Wikimedia Commons.

British-Australian “Grease” star and singer Olivia Newton-John died at the age of 73 on Monday at her home in southern California, her husband John Easterling announced in a post on her Instagram page.

Easterling said his wife was “a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.”

Newton-John revealed in May 2017 that she was undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer that had metastasized, People magazine reported. It was her third diagnosis of cancer in three decades. The “Physical” singer was first diagnosed in 1992, the same year her father died of cancer, and battled through a partial mastectomy, nine months of chemotherapy and a breast reconstruction. She overcame cancer again in 2013.

Newton-John is best known for her role as Sandy in the 1978 musical film “Grease” starring opposite John Travolta, who played her love interest, Danny.

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Travolta remembered his co-star in an Instagram post following her death and wrote: “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”

Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, in 1948 but was raised in Melbourne, Australia, where she later opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.

The four-time Grammy winner told i24News in 2019 that her mother, Irene Born, “was very proud of her Jewish tradition and talked about it a lot.”

Newton-John’s maternal grandfather was Jewish German Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born, one of the founders of quantum mechanics and a friend of Albert Einstein. In her 2019 memoir, Newton-John wrote: “In 1933, my Jewish grandfather fled from Germany with his wife, Hedwig, to escape Hitler’s regime. He was not only a brilliant mind but also a humanitarian who helped Jews escape Germany. I’m extremely proud of my peace-loving grandfather.”

Her maternal great-grandfather was German-Jewish jurist Victor Ehrenberg and her father was a British intelligence officer who took the Nazi Party’s Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II.

Newton-John is survived by her husband; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; and nieces and nephews. Her sister, Rona Newton-John, died in 2013 at age 70 from brain cancer.

Newton-John’s family has been offered a state funeral for her in Australia, and they plan to accept it, People reported.

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