Pierce Brosnan's Loss

updated 01/13/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/13/1992 01:00AM

IN 1983, A YEAR AFTER PIERCE BROSNAN began setting hearts aflutter as TV's debonair detective Remington Steele, the actor became distressed by the envy directed toward his wife, actress Cassandra Harris. "They get a little insensitive," Brosnan said, reflecting on his fans' treatment of Hams, whom he had married in London in 1977. "They say things like 'God, you're married to this hunk! How can you be so lucky?' What they don't realize is that I am the lucky one."

Brosnan's devotion, though, could not overcome the couple's tragic luck in 1987 when Harris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which she battled until her death at age 39 last week at L.A.'s Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital. Brosnan, 39, and the couple's three children, Charlotte, 19, Christopher, 18, and Sean William, 8, mourned Harris in a private Catholic ceremony in Santa Monica, attended by only 20 friends and relatives. (The two older children are from Harris's first marriage, to the late record and film producer Dermot Harris, brother of actor Richard Harris, who attended the service.)

A native of Sydney, Harris began acting onstage as a child, winning a drama scholarship at 16, then moving to England at 19 to join the National Theatre. After the breakup of her first marriage and her wedding to Irishborn Brosnan, whom she met through a mutual friend, she landed her splashiest screen role, as Countess List in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. The couple then relocated to L.A., where she played a recurring role as his ex-girlfriend on Remington Steele, which ran from 1982 through 1987.

While Harris endured painful rounds of surgery and chemotherapy, Brosnan de-emphasized his career in order to care for her and the kids. Harris once said she told her doting husband, "If all your adoring female fans could see you now, slaving over a hot stove, they'd love you even more. But not nearly as much as I do."

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