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Longtime HIV Ally Carole Cook Dies at 98

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The Broadway legend and Lucille Ball protégé also spent decades raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS causes. 

(CNN) -- Carole Cook, a veteran actress beloved for her work on stage and screen, with credits including the 1984 John Hughes comedy Sixteen Candles, has died, according to a statement from her agent, Robert Malcolm. She was 98.

Cook died "peacefully" on Wednesday from heart failure, Malcolm told CNN via email.

In addition to an illustrious career onstage, where she originated the role of Maggie Jones in the 1980 Broadway musical 42nd Street, Cook enjoyed over 60 screen credits.

She was initially taken under the wing of TV legend Lucille Ball, whom she credited with giving her her "big break."

"I had no place to live in California so I lived in Lucy's guesthouse until I got settled," Cook told the website Queer Voices in 2019. "She changed my name. I was born Mildred Frances Cook but Lucy didn't think it was a good show business name. She gave me the name Carole after Carole Lombard. Lucy said to me, 'You have the same healthy disrespect for everything in general, just like Lombard.'"

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Lucille Ball (left) is credited for giving Cook (right) her "big break"

The I Love Lucy star brought Cook from Ohio, where she was doing theater, to Hollywood to be part of Ball's DESILU theater's musical revue.

"We've been friends for several years," Ball said during an appearance on the game show Password with Cook in 1965.

Cook was also an active advocate for HIV/AIDS charities. The Broadway star spent over 30 years working with S.T.A.G.E. LA, a musical theater benefit for HIV/AIDS, and performed annually at San Francisco's Help Is On The Way benefit, an organization honoring the founders' sons, who died of the virus.

In 2015, the actress told that she'd like to be remembered "as somebody who brought a little difference to people's lives for the good."

"We all want to be beloved, and that would be nice," she said. "I'd like for them to think 'I'm glad I knew her.'"

Cook is survived by her husband, Tom Troupe.

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