LAS VEGAS (USA Today) -- Ruth Robinson Duccini, who played a Munchkin in the beloved 1939 musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz, died Thursday in Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Times reports. She was 95.
"Ruth was a sweetheart of a lady, feisty, independent, and a loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother," Stephen Cox, author of The Munchkins of Oz, told the Times of Northwest Indiana. Cox confirmed her death with the Associated Press after learning of it from her son.
Duccini was one of a troupe of 124 little people who portrayed the Munchkins in the Judy Garland film. Cox provided the Associated Press with a recent statement from Duccini about her time on the Wizard of Oz set.
"It was long hours and heavy costumes. We didn't have much time for ourselves. It was all new to me then, and I loved being a part of what is now a classic," she said.
Throughout her long life, Duccini made appearances at festivals celebrating The Wizard of Oz.
In an April 2013 radio interview with the BBC, she expressed disappointment that the Wizard of Oz song Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead was part of an online campaign to mock former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher after her death. "Nobody deserves to be treated in such a way... I am ashamed, I really am," The Daily Mail reported at the time.
Though she gained fame as a Munchkin, Duccini told The Daily Beast in a 2013 interview that her greatest role was as a "Rosie the Riveter" at an airplane factory in Santa Monica, Calif., during World War II. (Her small size allowed her to fit into tight spaces.)
"The one thing that I'm most proud of, during the Second World War, I worked on airplanes in a defense plant. ... I'm really proud of that," she said.
Duccini was born in Rush City, Minn., in 1918. She told The Daily Beast that she landed the Munchkin role after traveling to California in 1938 with a troupe of other short-statured actors who were responding to a casting call.
She met her future husband, Fred Duccini, while working at MGM, and they married in 1943. He died in 1994. The couple had two children.
The last surviving Munchkin, Jerry Maren, is 93 and lives in a retirement home in Los Angeles, according to The Daily Mail. He was a member of the Lollypop Guild in The Wizard of Oz.