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Mom In 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' Dies 'Unexpectedly'

Actress Darlene Cates, who starred as Gilbert's mom, Bonnie, in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," has died at the age of 69.

In a Facebook post, Cates' daughter announced that her mother had died unexpectedly in her sleep on March 26.

"It is with a bitter-sweet heart that we share that our precious wife, mother, and Gaga, Darlene Guthrie Cates, was called Home, somewhat unexpectedly, peacefully in her sleep," Sheri Cates Morgan wrote.

"We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father, breaking away only to dance with our Savior, Jesus. (Dancing was something she talked about loving to do 'back in the day'!)," she continued.

Morgan ended her post by thanking those that have sent love, texts, and prayers.

Cates was cast in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" as Bonnie Grape after screenwriter Peter Hedges saw her on an episode of the Sally Jessy Raphael television show "Sally." The episode was called "Too Heavy to Leave Their House," wherein Cates discussed obesity and the pelvic infection that caused her to gain 150 pounds, according to TMZ.

The role of Bonnie required an actress who was morbidly obese. The film also starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.

"I'll always remember you as the best acting momma I've ever had. You triumphed in your role," DiCaprio wrote in a note to Cates, according to The Dallas Morning News.

According to IMDb, Cates also appeared in episodes of "Picket Fences" and "Touched by an Angel."

Cates was born and raised in Texas and credited her obesity to overeating after her parents divorced when she was 12, the Daily Mail reports. In 1981, she had gastroplasty which enabled her to go from 410 pounds to 310 pounds. She eventually gained the weight back and more, reaching 550 pounds.

Speaking with The Dallas Morning News in 2012 after losing more than 40 percent of her weight -- from 575 pounds to 331 -- Cates said she wanted to act again. She was held back at the time by health issues that had kept her in the hospital for almost a year. During that time she experienced three near-death experiences and had four surgeries.

Cates' desire to return to movies came true; she recently completed the film "Billboard."

Her daughter said on Facebook that a celebration of life will take place for Cates.

Sources: Sheri Cates Morgan/FacebookTMZ, Daily Mail, The Dallas Morning News, IMDb / Photo credit: Paramount Pictures via IMDb

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