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Natasha Richardson remembered for her eloquence

They paid their respects Friday to the woman they loved so much and lost too young.

For three hours Friday afternoon, the grief-stricken family and friends of actress Natasha Richardson walked through the stately wrought-iron entrance of the American Irish Historical Society on Fifth Avenue, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Inside, Richardson, 45, who died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital from a head injury she suffered in a fall while skiing earlier in the week in Canada, lay in an open, polished wood coffin.

Dr. Mathilde Krim, founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, for which Richardson did volunteer work for 15 years, described Liam Neeson, the actress' husband and father of their two sons, as "a man who was drained." They did not speak, she said: "We only embraced."

Krim had high praise for Richardson's work at the foundation over the years.

"She used her fame and talent to speak at fundraisers," she said. "She was always eloquent."

Earlier, arriving for the visitation, Vanessa Redgrave, the actress' mother, and Joely Richardson, her sister, walked arm-in-arm up the building's steps, their faces a study in grief.

Within moments, Neeson and sons Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12, arrived in a black Mercedes station wagon and entered as well, with the father wearing sunglasses and flanked by his boys.

Among the friends attending the wake were actors Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Matthew Modine and television anchor Diane Sawyer.

Thursday night, Broadway theaters paid tribute to Richardson by dimming their lights for one minute.

Information on funeral arrangements was closely held. Published reports have said Richardson will be buried in upstate Millbrook, near where she and Neeson have a second home.

Krim said the family is asking that donations be made in her name to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

- Click here to see photos of Natasha Richardson through her life

- Photos: Celebrities pay tribute to Natasha Richardson

- Sign Natasha Richardson's guestbook

- Photos of Natasha Richardson's family at Lenox Hill hospital in NYC, and the Quebec ski resort

- Click here to see photos of more celebrity deaths that shocked us

Click here to see photos of more stars who died too young

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