"To Kill A Mockingbird" actor Gregory Peck confessed that when he first met Veronique Passani, he was immediately "struck" with her. They wedded a day after his divorce to his first wife became final and remained happily married for 48 years.
Gregory Peck was one of the most famous film stars between the 1940s and 1960s, starring in "Twelve O'clock High" and "Moby Dick," among many others. He was also a husband to Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen, who he'd married in 1942.
In their 14 years of marriage, the two were parents to three sons. Their first, Jonathan, was born in 1944. Unfortunately, he passed on in 1975. At the time of his demise, he was a reporter for a television station in nearby Santa Maria.
Actor Gregory Peck [Left] Peck with Veronique Peck at the Moore-Marciano fight at Yankee Stadium. [Right] | Source: Getty Images
PECK WAS A DOTING FATHER, BUT HIS MARRIAGE COULD NOT WORK
The couple welcomed their second, Stephen, in 1946, and he served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Today, he heads the nation's largest nonprofit devoted to providing housing and other essential services to at-risk veterans.
The youngest, Carey Paul, was born in 1949. He followed in his father's footsteps and became an actor. His acting credits include "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" and "American Masters."
Growing up, the Peck children were the apple of their father's eye, and Peck loved spending time with them. He would take them on outings on horseback, camping trips, and picnics.
Portrait of Gregory Peck in the 1950s. | Source: Getty Images
Despite being in the limelight, Peck and Kukkonen had agreed from the onset to give their children a regular life and often protected them from the publicity by denying any offers for photo layouts.
And while he was a great father, his marriage didn't enjoy the same success. He reportedly had several affairs. His marriage to Kukkonen was long dead, and they only stayed in the union for the sake of their children.
However, Peck's burgeoning relationship with French reporter Veronique Passani appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Gregory Peck with his first wife Greta Kukkonen and their three sons. Gregory holds Stephen, Greta holds Carey, and Jonathan is at bottom. | Source: Getty Images
Peck's family had been with the actor in Rome as he filmed "Roman Holiday." But one day, Kukkonen suddenly left France and returned to Los Angeles.
After the family was back home, Kukkonen announced their separation on January 13, 1953. Following the reality of his failed marriage and separation from his children, Peck became depressed and started drinking heavily.
A CHANCE MEETING THAT BECAME A DECADE-LONG MARRIAGE
In 1952, on his way to Rome to film "Roman Holiday," Paramount, the studio producing the film, asked him to stop in Paris and take an interview with the leading French newspaper, French Soir. He agreed.
Gregory Peck on the set of the 1958 Western "The Big Country." | Source: Getty Images
He, however, did not realize that the woman who would interview him would change his life forever. Assigned to report Peck's story was Veronique Passani. The two immediately hit it off, and Peck would later confess:
"She struck me immediately as a very attractive, very bright, very smart girl."
Passani liked Peck's modesty and thought he was a delightful conversationalist. The interview ended, and they went their separate ways but would soon reunite.
Actor Gregory Peck's second wife Veronique Passani on April 11, 2012, in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images
Following Kukkonen's announcement that she wanted a divorce, the actor went through a rough patch, and looking to change the mood, he remembered the beautiful reporter who had interviewed him in Paris.
He reached out to Passani. She had since left French Soir and now worked with Paris Presse. They had lunch and spent the afternoon at a race track.
That afternoon led to many more dates for the lovebirds. And as Peck and Kukkonen awaited their long-year divorce to become final, Peck continued courting Passani.
Actor Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique Passani attend an event in Los Angeles in 1961. | Source: Getty Images
Eventually, two years after he met Passani, Peck's 14-year marriage to Kukkonen ended when on December 30, 1955, Superior Court Judge Elmer D. Doyle signed a decree to finalize Peck's divorce.
Over the following years, Peck and Kukkonen maintained an amicable relationship centered on their mutual concern and love for their sons. Lynn Haney, author of "Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life," would tell Closer:
"But what's interesting is he stayed friends with her. It meant a lot that they could call up each other and talk, and that lasted all through his life."
Portrait of Gregory Peck in 1945. | Source: Getty Images
"TILL DEATH DO US PART"
On December 31, 1955, 23-year-old Passani and Peck, who was 16 years older than she was, married at Mr. and Mrs. Channing Peakes Santa Ynes California home.
The two welcomed their first child, Anthony, in 1956, followed by a daughter Cecilia, in 1958. Peck loved being a father, a role he could not exercise well with his first family.
Despite welcoming his two children, he still wanted a large, united family and did not forget his older sons. He often brought the families together throughout his life.
Gregory Peck and wife Veronique at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, United States. | Source: Getty Images
"She had huge, glowing eyes and a face brimming with vitality and intelligence and heart and humor. I found myself when I found Veronique."
Like their siblings from Peck's first marriage, Anthony and Cecilia followed their father's footsteps and joined the entertainment industry. Anthony studied and graduated from Amherst College and Juilliard School.
Veronique Peck and daughter Cecilia Peck on June 9, 2011. | Source: Getty Images
He is a renowned actor, writer, and producer. He has appeared in "Silver" and the 1989 comic strip adaptation of "Brenda Starr."
On the other hand, Cecilia studied theatre at Princeton University. She has appeared on "Torn Apart" and "Wall Street," with her role on "The Portrait," earning her a Golden Globe in 1993.
She then switched to documentary filmmaking, creating "A Conversation With Gregory Peck." Her most recent project is writing, producing, and directing the 2020 series "Seduced: Inside the NXIUM Cult."
Gregory Peck and wife Veronique Peck attend the Balmain Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1996 show in Paris. | Source: Getty Images
Cecilia remembers her father as a man of integrity, decency, and humility. She told Closer that Peck's compassion and generosity always came through in his roles, adding:
"At his core, he had a real humility. And at the same time, he would be extraordinarily proud that things he started were being carried on. That's what you want to leave: a legacy you're proud of."