updated 04/28/2011 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 04/28/2011 AT 7:55 AM ET
Alice Ward, the no-nonsense, real-life mom of boxing champ Micky Ward and one of the riveting main characters in this year’s Oscar-winning The Fighter, died Tuesday at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
She was 79 and was taken off life support after having lapsed into a coma, reports the Lowell Sun in Massachusetts.
In January, Ward suffered a heart attack, a stroke and was pronounced dead for 45 minutes – only to regain consciousness and start breathing again on her own, her other son, Dicky Eklund, told the family s local newspaper.
For a time, Alice managed her son’s careers in the ring. “She was in there when there really weren’t any women at all,” said Micky. “She was a pioneer of her time.”
In preparation for the role, Leo held several meetings with Alice – and felt an instant connection, the actress told PEOPLE earlier this year. “It was mystical meeting Alice. My grandmother had passed just a couple years before, and there were echoes of her in the room suddenly.”
The mother of nine children, Alice Ward is survived by them as well as 19 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, “and she loved them all,” Mickey is quoted as saying.