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Tatum O’Neal pays tribute to father Ryan O’Neal, whom she reunited with before his death: ‘I feel very lucky’

Tatum O’Neal pays tribute to father Ryan O’Neal, whom she reunited with before his death: ‘I feel very lucky’

They were previously estranged for 20 years.

Tatum O’Neal is mourning the loss of her father, Ryan O’Neal, who died at age 82 on Friday.

The youngest-ever Oscar-winning actress, who won for Paper Moon, the 1974 comedy costarring her father, told PEOPLE that she was grateful they had been able to reconcile in the years before his death after two decades of estrangement.

"I feel great sorrow with my father's passing," she told the outlet. "He meant the world to me. I loved him very much and know he loved me too. I'll miss him forever, and I feel very lucky that we ended on such good terms.”

<p>Michael Buckner/Getty</p> Ryan and Tatum O'Neal

Michael Buckner/Getty

Ryan and Tatum O'Neal

Tatum detailed her complicated relationship with her father, which led them not to speak to one another for 20 years, in her 2004 biography, A Paper Life. The pair made their first steps toward healing their relationship in the months before Ryan’s partner, Farah Fawcett, died of cancer in 2009.

After her death, Ryan reached out to Tatum and the pair had lunch with Tatum’s son, Sean McEnroe, acting as a mediator. “He told me he’s sorry,” Tatum recalled to PEOPLE in 2010 while discussing their reunion. “He’s all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life. My dad was absolutely everything to me.”

Tatum also credited Fawcett for playing “a very big role” in their reconciliation. “God forbid something were to have happened to my dad,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have lived with myself."

At the time, Ryan confessed that he wished he had been more involved in Tatum's life during in her younger years. “She didn’t have anyone after her mother died. She didn’t want me, and she said I abandoned her, and I did.... A lot of harsh things were done,” he said, but added, “We’re starting over and no looking back.” The pair’s reconciliation was documented in OWN's 2011 reality series Ryan & Tatum: The O’Neals.

Their bond was still going strong as recently as 2020, when Sean posted a photo of the O’Neal family enjoying quality time together. “This is one of the most memorable photos of my life. The last time we were all together was at the 30-year Paper Moon anniversary in 2003," he wrote. “I could cry tears of gratitude that everyone in this photo is still alive and that we were all able to come together again after so many years of hardship.”

Sean concluded, “The entire West Coast is burning, but if the O’Neals can reconcile, truly anything is possible.”

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