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Louise Treadwell Tracy, widow of actor Spencer Tracy and...

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Louise Treadwell Tracy, widow of actor Spencer Tracy and founder of the John Tracy Clinic for deaf and hearing-impaired children, has died. She was 87.

Mrs. Tracy, who had been in failing health for two years, died Sunday.

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'The love and dedication she brought to her own life and into the lives of children will go on forever,' said Dr. James Harrell, a doctor who learned to communicate at the clinic nearly 30 years ago. 'They are an echo in the eternity of silence.'

The Pennsylvania native made several attempts at a stage career that were only moderately successful.

When she accepted a lead in a play with a stock company in White Plains, N.Y., a different type of break came her way -- on the train, she met another member of the cast, a bit player named Spencer Tracy. A few weeks later, between the matinee and evening performances, they were married.

The discovery that her first son was born deaf changed her life.

Contrary to the advice of doctors who told her little John would never learn to talk, Mrs. Tracy insisted there was a chance.

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'We went right on talking to Johnny, singing to him, telling him nursery rhymes, even though we knew he heard nothing we said -- and as it turned out, that was just the right thing to do,' she recalled.

The Tracys' son learned to lip-read, graduated from college and was able to continue a relatively normal life.

Mrs. Tracy founded the John Tracy Clinic in 1942 with financing from her husband. She spent the next 30 years making it the world's largest educational center for parents and their preschool deaf children. This year, its director estimated it provided free service to 60,000 youngsters and their parents.

Mrs. Tracy worked tirelessly on behalf of the clinic, writing and lecturing on hearing impairment. Though the Tracy's did not divorce, they lived apart for many years before the actor died in 1967.

She is survived by her son, John, a daughter, Louise, two grandchildren and a sister. Services were scheduled for Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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