Peter Fonda died on Friday morning after suffering respiratory failure due to lung cancer

By Joelle Goldstein and Mia McNiece
August 16, 2019 09:02 PM
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Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda
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Jane Fonda is mourning her brother Peter Fonda’s death — and celebrating his spirit.

Shortly after PEOPLE confirmed that her little brother had died on Friday morning, the iconic actress, 81, spoke out about the tragedy and how she was coping with the loss.

Though Jane said that she was devastated by Peter’s passing, she also revealed that she had spent some alone time with him before his death and reassured everyone that her little brother “went out laughing.”

“I am very sad,” Jane said in a statement to PEOPLE. “He was my sweet-hearted baby brother, the talker of the family.”

“I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days,” she added. “He went out laughing.”

Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda
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The Fonda family confirmed the sad news about Peter’s passing in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE on Friday and said that the two-time Oscar-nominated star died after suffering respiratory failure due to lung cancer.

“It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that Peter Fonda has passed away,” the family said. “[Peter] passed away peacefully on Friday morning, August 16 at 11:05 a.m. at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family.”

Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda
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“In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy,” they continued.

“And, while we mourn the loss of this sweet and gracious man, we also wish for all to celebrate his indomitable spirit and love of life,” the family finished. “In honor of Peter, please raise a glass to freedom.”

Peter Fonda

Only two years apart, Jane and Peter leaned on each other amid a tough childhood, which included the estrangement of their father and the suicide of their mother Frances Seymour Brokaw when they were just 12 and 10, respectively.

After their mother’s death, Jane and Peter were told that she had a heart attack and died in a hospital; their father barely spoke of the incident again. Later on, they learned that Frances had tragically killed herself on her 42nd birthday.

Speaking to PEOPLE in March 2014, Jane recalled how Peter “was much more affected by the fact that no one talked about our mom.”

“It was like she’d just been erased,” Jane said. “[The Christmas after she died], Peter filled a chair with presents and a letter for her. He couldn’t stand that there was no acknowledgment of her. He was such a sensitive, sweet, vulnerable kid.”

The Fonda family
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Like their famous father, whom Peter had reconciled with before his death, both Jane and Peter eventually went on to pursue show business and made names for themselves as actors and producers.

Peter was best known for playing the role of Wyatt in 1969’s Easy Rider, which he also produced and co-scripted. For his work on the project, Peter earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Aside from Easy Rider, the actor starred in Ulee’s Gold, The Hired Hand, The Trip, and Wild Angels, opposite Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern.

RELATED VIDEO: Jane Fonda Opens Up About Her Mother’s Suicide: ‘It Has A Big Impact On Your Sense of Self’

Throughout his lifetime, he also directed a number of projects and earned himself several accolades along the way, including four Golden Globe nominations (two of which he won), one Emmy nomination and another Oscar nomination for Ulee’s Gold.

More recently, Peter was featured on television series, including CSI: NY, Hawaii Five-O, The Blacklist, and Milo Murphy’s Law.

At the time of his death, he was in pre-production for a movie called Skate God, expected to release in 2020, according to his IMDb. The last film he acted in was The Last Full Measure, which is expected to be released later this year.

Jane, meanwhile, has a number of titles under her belt but is best known for her roles in Barbarella, Klute, Book Club, and Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.