Lisa Spoonauer, a New Jersey actress who gained notoriety by playing Caitlin Bree in ’90s cult film Clerks, has died. She was 44.

Clerks director Kevin Smith announced the news on Instagram with a touching tribute, writing in part: “Thank you for dreaming my dream with me. You changed my life, Lisa.”

According to NJ.com, Spoonauer was a Rahway native who gave up acting shortly after Clerks became a smash hit, going on to become a restaurant manager and event planner. The report states that Spoonauer’s family has not revealed her cause of death. She passed away on Saturday (May 20), and leaves behind a husband and daughter.

In Smith’s remembrance, he recalls how he first met Spoonauer when spontaneously showing up at a Brookdale Community College acting class. “Lisa was easily the most natural and authentic voice in the room,” Smith writes. “She didn’t sound like she was acting at all; she delivered scripted dialogue as if she was inventing her conversation in the moment, like people do in real life. Captivated, I approached Lisa cold in the parking lot after the class and said ‘This is gonna sound creepy but… Do you wanna be in a movie?’ Fearlessly, she replied ‘Not if it’s porn.’

Read Smith’s full tribute below.

Devastated to report that #LisaSpoonauer, who played Caitlin in #clerks, has passed away. In 1992, I went looking for Lisa without knowing either who she was or the integral role she'd play in my life. I'd held a night of open auditions at the #firstavenueplayhouse (where we found @briancohalloran and @marilynghigliotti) but the perfect Caitlin Bree never walked through the door. So I popped into an acting class at Brookdale Community College and watched the students from the back. Lisa was easily the most natural and authentic voice in the room. She didn't sound like she was acting at all; she delivered scripted dialogue as if she was inventing her conversation in the moment, like people do in real life. Captivated, I approached Lisa cold in the parking lot after the class and said "This is gonna sound creepy but… Do you wanna be in a movie?" Fearlessly, she replied "Not if it's porn." I told her a bit about Clerks and gave her a copy of the script and my phone number. She called me a few days later and said "Well it's not porn, but everybody talks like it is. It's funny. I'll do it." A complete stranger at first, Lisa quickly became one of the most important people I'd ever meet when she joined Brian, #JeffAnderson, Marilyn, @jaymewes, @samosier, @davidkleinasc and me as one of the chief architects of my first film. We rehearsed for a month straight in the store after hours, where Lisa perfected Caitlin (and fell in love with Jeff). The first night of the shoot, Lisa had to maneuver her way through a seven minute scene with Brian in the video store, when Caitlin finally shows up in the movie. Lisa and Brian CRUSHED it in one long take that still remains one of my favorite scenes I've ever shot – not because it shows off any directorial flare (it doesn't) but because it exemplified how great the performers were since we never had to cut away from their 2-shot. But as strong an actress as she was, Lisa was an even more excellent Mother to her daughter Mia. Whenever we'd Facebook later in life, she'd gush about her baby girl proudly. My heart goes out to Tom, Mia and Lisa's family. Thank you for dreaming my dream with me. You changed my life, Lisa.

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