When Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of California's Catalina Island in 1981, she left behind two children, daughters Natasha Gregson Wagner, 11, and Courtney Wagner, 7.
Gregson Wagner is the product of Natalie Wood's second marriage, to producer Richard Gregson. Wood and Gregson married in 1969, seven years after her split from first husband Robert Wagner. Natasha was born in 1970 and named for the Russian version of Natalia, Wood's given name. Wood divorced Gregson and remarried Wagner when Natasha was 2.
The actress then updated her daughter's last name, adding Wagner to the end. "She added his name without talking about it to my real dad, which she shouldn't have done; but that was my mom's style," Gregson Wagner told the New York Times in 2016. "She didn't think she needed to ask permission to do anything."
Following her mother's death, Gregson Wagner was raised along with her half-sister by Robert Wagner. "There were no lawyers," she told the New York Times. "My dads just sat down and my Daddy Gregson said, 'I feel like Natasha should come live with me because she's my daughter,' and my Daddy Wagner said, 'I know, that would make sense, but she's grown up with me,' and then they said, 'What's the best thing for Natasha?'"
"And they were right," she added. "The best thing for me was to live with my stepdad and see my Daddy Gregson over the summer."
After Wood's tragic death, Mother's Day was never the same for her daughters, who used to draw pictures and write cards for their mom on the occasion, while "Daddy Wagner" organized a "casual celebration" with friends and cold cuts from the local deli, Gregson Wagner recently told People.
For 20 years after the devastating loss, Gregson Wagner experienced Mother's Day as a "sad and difficult day."
That is, until she met her husband, actor Barry Watson of 7th Heaven fame, and the couple had a child of their own, daughter Clover, in 2012. Since then, said Gregson Wagner, Mother's Day has gotten easier.
"Mother's Day feels like a real day of completion and contentment, a day of gratitude," she said. "I wonder sometimes if it felt like that for her, too."
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