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Mary O'Connor, Hugh Hefner's longtime assistant, dead at 85

Mary O'Connor, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's longtime executive assistant, who found a degree of late-life fame on E!'s reality shows "The Girls Next Door" and "Kendra," died Sunday in Sherman Oaks, Calif., near Los Angeles, at age 85.

"Mary passed away today. We loved her more than words can say," Hefner posted on his Twitter page Sunday, after having tweeted the day before that his new wife Crystal Harris "is going to visit Mary O'Conner, [sic] who is not doing very well. Mary has our prayers. We all love her."

A housemother to bevies of Playboy bunnies, and Hefner's right-hand woman for more than 40 years, O'Connor was "wry and indomitable," Esquire magazine wrote in 1998, describing how in her Playboy Mansion office "Hef squats on the floor most weekdays, doing magazine business -- seat of the empire, Mary's carpet; sometimes her couch, too."

The Playboy mogul, 86, credited O'Connor in June with reuniting him and December 2009 Playmate Harris, who broke up with him days before their planned wedding last year.

"It's Mary O'Conner [sic] that brought Crystal Harris back," Hefner tweeted. "Crystal was miserable & said so. Mary told Crystal to write & tell me, which she did." Hefner and Harris married on New Year's Eve.

Mary Eugenia Feuchtinger was born Aug. 5, 1927, in Chicago and grew up in Marion, Ind. She moved to California, where her aunt was a screenwriter, in 1953, and found work on the board of a hospitality magazine.

In 1969 she returned to Chicago, then the seat of Playboy Enterprises, to take a position as manager of the Playboy Mansion.

In 1982 she married her fourth husband, Robert F. Gentert, who piloted sailing ships for Getty Oil and Maritime Overseas Corp. "Captain Bob," as he was known, died of pneumonia at 82 in April.

"RIP Mary O'Connor. She was an amazing person who helped me through so much," tweeted Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, who starred with Harris and others on "The Girls Next Door." "But I know she's happy with her boo Captain Bob."

She is survived by her brother, James Feuchtinger, and sister-in-law Sheila, as well as several nieces and nephews.

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