By Rosy Cordero
June 11, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
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Credit: Brian Bowan Smith

Nanci Ryder, the powerhouse publicist who co-founded BWR Public Relations and represented some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Renée Zellweger, Courteney Cox, and Michael J. Fox, died Thursday from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. She was 67.

Ryder was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2014, prompting her to step down from BWR, which she launched with Paul Baker and Larry Winokur in 1987. (The firm announced its closure last month, citing "a variety of considerations" and the "tremendous impact" of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

During a career that spanned more than 30 years, Ryder mentored many of the mainstays in talent public relations, and also worked in the realm of fashion, advising such prominent design houses as Armani, Gucci, and Prada.

After her diagnosis, Ryder battled the terminal disease head-on with the help of many of her former clients, working to raise funds and awareness for ALS and to advance the search for effective treatments and cures. Zellweger and Cox walked as part of "Team Nanci" at the Los Angeles County Walk to Defeat ALS for the sixth year in a row in November. Other former clients and longtime friends who supported Ryder and her efforts include Fox, Reese Witherspoon, Adam Scott, and Matt Bomer.

In 2018, Ryder accepted the ALS Hero Award at the Walk to Defeat ALS. In an acceptance speech read by her friend Don Diamont, Ryder said, "The one thing that ALS can not and will not take away from me is… LOVE. My love for each and every one of my friends for joining me on this terrible and crazy journey. My love for each of you for being brave and tenacious enough to be here today to stand up for those that YOU love. My love for this wonderful day that we are all sharing here together."

She continued, "I never intended to be courageous or inspirational, but according to this award apparently I am. So I ask you all today to promise me that — no matter what — that you will never, ever give up. That is another thing that ALS cannot take away — our will to keep going."

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