Lisa Spoonauer, known for playing Caitlin Bree in Kevin Smith’s cult classic Clerks, has died at the age of 44.
She died of natural causes at home in New Jersey on Saturday, the Jackson Township coroner’s office tells PEOPLE. Born and raised in the state, Spoonauer appeared in just two films: 1994’s Clerks and 1997’s Bartender. She was briefly married to her Clerks costar Jeff Anderson from 1998-1999, and later went on to become a restaurant manager and event planner, according to her obituary.
Spoonauer is survived by her husband, Tom Caron; her daughter, Mia Spoonauer; her stepson, Tyler Caron; her mother, Dolores Spoonauer; her twin brothers, Michael and Mark Spoonauer and their families; and her grandfather, Frank Figurelli, according to the website.
Her Clerks costar and onscreen love interest, Brian O’Halloran, was the first cast member to confirm the news on Facebook. He did not elaborate on the cause of death. “I’m truly gutted by this news,” O’Halloran, who played Dante Hicks in the film, wrote on Tuesday. “My deepest condolences and prayers to her husband Tom and his family.”
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He added, “She always had a wicked sense of humor and smile. I was blessed to have been part of an incredible life changing adventure with her. To this day it is a part of my life. Not a day goes by that she was mentioned or remembered in some fashion. She will live on in my heart and in the hearts of millions. Always in my heart. Rest in Peace Lisa.”
Clerks writer and director Smith posted his condolences to Instagram shortly afterwards. “Devastated to report that #LisaSpoonauer, who played Caitlin in #clerks, has passed away,” he wrote.
He went on to describe the process of casting Spoonauer in the dark, verbose comedy about suburban slackers, saying that when open auditions failed to produce a strong candidate, he dropped by an acting class at Brookdale Community College, where he saw her perform for the first time. “Lisa was easily the most natural and authentic voice in the room,” he explained. “She didn’t sound like she was acting at all; she delivered scripted dialogue as if she was inventing her conversation in the moment, like people do in real life.”
Smith approached Spoonauer in the parking lot after class and offered her the script. She said she’d take a look, but wouldn’t do any adult films. “She called me a few days later and said ‘Well it’s not porn, but everybody talks like it is. It’s funny. I’ll do it,’ ” Smith remembered.
“A complete stranger at first, Lisa quickly became one of the most important people I’d ever meet when she joined Brian, #JeffAnderson, Marilyn, @jaymewes, @samosier, @davidkleinasc and me as one of the chief architects of my first film,” he added.
“As strong an actress as she was,” he continued, “Lisa was an even more excellent mother to her daughter Mia. Whenever we’d Facebook later in life, she’d gush about her baby girl proudly. My heart goes out to Tom, Mia and Lisa’s family. Thank you for dreaming my dream with me. You changed my life, Lisa.”
Other cast members have since taken to social media to express their condolences, including Marilyn Ghigliotti, who played Veronica in Clerks. “Words can not even begin to express how heartbroken I am to hear thatLisa Spoonauer passed away on Saturday,” she wrote. “My sincerest and deepest condolences to her husband Tom, her dearest daughter Mia and the rest of the family.”
Clerks actor Scott Schiaffo also posted, “I was fortunate that Lisa had become an incredibly sweet and endeared Facebook friend these last few years. Always very upbeat, complimentary and so down to earth. She was an awesome mom and an amazing spirit throughout her battle.”
On a fundraising page for Patient Advocate Foundation Inc. created by Spoonauer’s brother in her memory, he wrote, “Our sister Lisa, if she had gotten better, was going to devote the rest of her life to fighting for those with chronic illness who didn’t have the strength or the resources to get the right answers and ultimately obtain the correct course of treatment for themselves.”