Skye McCole Bartusiak, “Patriot” actress with local ties, died Saturday

By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com

July 20, 2014

Skye McCole Bartusiak, a young actress with Wyoming Valley ties best known for her role in the film “The Patriot,” has died unexpectedly at her Texas home. She was 21.

Bartusiak’s mother told The Associated Press the actress had been living in an apartment adjacent to her parents’ Houston, Texas, home. She said the actress’ boyfriend found her unresponsive on her bed Saturday.

Bartusiak was born and raised in Houston, but she had family members in Luzerne County, including aunts and uncles in West Wyoming and Shavertown, according to Cathy Fusco, whose brother married Bartusiak’s aunt.

“I would have been ‘Aunt Cathy’ to her,” Fusco said.

Bartusiak often spent time in the region, visiting with family during the holidays, Fusco said.

“We always saw each other around Christmastime,” Fusco added. “Obviously, we’re friends on Facebook.”

It was Bartusiak’s role in several episodes of the hit TV series “24” featuring Kiefer Sutherland, that led Fusco to get hooked on the show, she said.

The young actress’ career was most notably marked by her heartwarming portrayal of a colonist’s young daughter, in “The Patriot,” a 2000 film starring Mel Gibson.

Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin, spends most of the film fighting for his daughter’s affection, after she becomes embittered that he has chosen to leave the family home to fight against the British.

The plot swings heartily upward when Susan chases after her father, begging him to stay.

Bartusiak took her first acting job at age 6 in the 1999 film “The Cider House Rules.”

More recent roles included appearances on the television series “CSI” and a leading part in the 2012 film “Sick Boy,” according to the Internet Movie Database.

“We are so proud of her accomplishments,” Fusco said. “My heart goes out to her family. I just hope they can find some peace and comfort.”

Helen Bartusiak, Skye’s mother, told the AP she tried to resuscitate her daughter but could not. She said the actress had been healthy and did not drink or do drugs. The family did not claim to know what caused her death Sunday evening.