Zhuo Lin, wife of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and de facto first lady in the 1980s and 90s, died in Beijing yesterday at the age of 93. Ms Zhuo kept a low profile and had little influence in politics, but left a footprint in contemporary history as the woman behind one of the nation's most powerful men. She held only ceremonial titles during the prime years of Deng's political career and said in a rare media interview after Deng's death in February 1997 that she preferred to help file documents for her husband and take care of his daily life. Nevertheless, she was a household name. While her husband was the patriarch of the Communist Party, even though he never held the title of party secretary general or state president, her children and son-in-law wielded substantial clout in politics, business and the army in the 1980s and 1990s when the 'Deng family' was the most powerful in the land. Plain-looking and low key, few were privy to the thoughts and feelings of Ms Zhuo. Little is known of what she went through when she accompanied Deng to work in a tractor repair workshop in Jiangxi province in 1969 when he was purged at the age of 65 or the heartbreak she suffered when she had to pass her children to the care of peasants during the war in the 1940s. She saw her eldest son, Deng Pufang, crippled by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution and witnessed the diminishing influence of her family during the days of Deng's successor, Jiang Zemin . Born into a relatively well off family of a ham producer in Yunnan province in 1916, Ms Zhuo was 12 years younger than Deng. She was admitted to the physics department of Peking University but had to drop out during the Japanese invasion. She later went to Yanan, the base of the Communist Party, where she changed her name from Pu Qiongying to Zhuo Lin and married Deng at the age of 23. She was his third wife. Deng died, also aged 93, without fulfilling his dream of visiting Hong Kong for the handover ceremony. A few months later, a tearful Ms Zhuo attended the ceremony, and was rarely seen in public thereafter. Xinhua said Ms Zhuo died of an illness at 12.30pm in Beijing yesterday. A statement issued by the General Office of the Communist Party's Central Committee hailed her as having been 'an excellent CPC member and time-honoured loyal communist fighter'.