New York Neighbors Mourn Natasha Richardson

03/20/2009 at 06:45 AM EDT

New York Neighbors Mourn Natasha Richardson
Natasha Richardson
Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages
In the wake of the tragic death of Natasha Richardson, a neighborhood acquaintance tells PEOPLE that the actress was "one of the nicest and most down to earth people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. Everyone in the neighborhood is shocked."

Manhattan's Upper West Side was a neighborhood Richardson knew well – so much so that doormen at her building, having heard that her medical prognosis was hopeless, were observed crying on Tuesday.

Richardson and her husband, actor Liam Neeson, were regulars at several neighborhood establishments, including Café Luxembourg, where a source says the staff is "extremely devastated by this loss. There are so many beautiful memories this family had here, birthdays and celebrations, both for their kids and themselves. You knew Liam and Natasha lived for each other and their beautiful family."

The source adds that "every conversation I would have with Liam, he would always say, 'I can not wait until Natasha and I finish our projects so we can just go upstate and spend time with the kids and the dog. We just want to be together.' "

That family closeness was evident to many who knew the actress. "I would see her with her two sons all the time," says the neighborhood acquaintance. "She was madly in love with her kids. They were her life."

Reporting by DAVID CAPLAN, LAURA HAHN and HITHA PRABAKHAR

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