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Mary Tyler Moore: Death and Diabetes

Updated on December 7, 2016
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Mary Tyler Moore in the 1960s. She was a cover model.
Mary Tyler Moore in the 1960s. She was a cover model. | Source

With her simultaneously adorable and beautiful face, and elegant dancer's body, Mary Tyler Moore first captured television audiences' attention in the 1960s as Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show; the sweet wife of the program's main character. Then, in the 1970s, she was the working woman's icon, playing the part of Mary Richards on the self-titled Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which her character was the Producer of a television news program.

Without a doubt, Mary Tyler Moore is a successful actress, gracing both the television screen as well as giving the public an Oscar-nominated performance on the big screen in Ordinary People. But with her success, she has also endured tragedy and struggle. Two particularly trying events of her life had been tragic and life-changing: The death of her son Richie Meeker when he was only 24 years old and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Death of Mary Tyler Moore's Son, Richie Meeker

One of Mary's life struggles had been her alienation from her only child, her son Richie Meeker, a child from her first marriage with Richard Meeker. Her son's father had been an enthusiastic hunter, which Mary never did like, and she was disappointed when her son took up his father's same interest in guns and hunting. But certainly by the time Richie became interested in such things, Mary had already lost much of any connection she might have had with her son.

She admits to having the same tendencies as her own father: being controlling and being distant. She had been absorbed by her television career as Richie hit his teens. He rebelled against her success and the lack of attention from her, and battled his own loneliness as son of a rich celebrity. Mary was rigid, even yelling at her son right on the set of The Mary Tyler Moore Show because he had gotten a tattoo of a dragon on his arm.

Too much control and a lack of attention drove Richie away from his mother and he went to live with his Dad who had divorced Mary when Richie was 6 years old.

But Richie lived a relatively normal life. After graduating from high school, he got a job at a bank and lived with his girlfriend. Soon, he even mended his relationship with his mother and by the time Ordinary People was released in 1980, he was there for the screening.

He talked to his Mom at this point, on a fairly regular basis, something he hadn't done for years.

He had moved in with two friends, down in LA and he had hoped to start a career in acting. One of his friends had been burglarized, so Richie kept a shotgun hanging on his bedroom wall.

One night, he had massaged his room-mate's foot to relieve a cramp and put up some book shelves for her, and the two departed to their respective rooms. He seemed to be in high spirits, called his Mom and called his girlfriend down in Fresno.

His other room-mate came home at 10:30 that night. She was talking to Richie in his bedroom. He playfully took his shotgun from off the wall and pointed it at his face, loading and unloading it, saying, "She loves me, she loves me not..." His room-mate Judy begged him to stop but he brushed off her concern, assuring her he knew what he was doing. A moment later, the gun went off.

Mary Tyler Moore had a famous and abundant support network. Ed Asner held her as she wept; Dick Van Dyke called her over and over again to console her; she was contacted by President Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Billy Graham.

She, of course, was devastated. And racked with guilt. But she pulled through.


Mary Tyler Moore in 1970.
Mary Tyler Moore in 1970. | Source

Mary Tyler Moore's Diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes

By the time The Mary Tyler Moore Show was launched in the 1970s, Mary was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This particular form of diabetes affects beta cells in the pancreas; beta cells make insulin which, in turn, converts sugar and starch into energy.

Needless to say, Mary has had to adjust to her medical condition. It has done away with much of her vision, so that her old loves, ballet and horse-back riding, are no longer possible. However, she does work out for an hour a day, about 5 times a week; she even does Pilates. It helps fight her diabetes.

She has to check her blood sugar regularly and take insulin shots when necessary. She says she gives herself a shot through her clothes, in the thigh, even at the dinner table when necessary. She has to plan everything around her health issues. She has to be mindful of injuries because diabetes affects circulation to the extent that gangrene can set in quickly even in relatively minor injuries.

But she admits she wasn't always so conscientious about taking care of herself. At the height of her career, she says she was quite negligent. In fact, that is the subject of her memoir Growing Up, Again. And she hopes that her experience dealing with diabetes will help others who are dealing with it too.

In fact, Mary is very active in the fight against Diabetes, being the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to which the proceeds of her memoir go.

So, it is clear, Mary Tyler Moore has made something of her struggle, lives on, and passes on more than helpful knowledge and wisdom to the public to aid those afflicted with her same medical condition. Truly an admirable and proper way to handle her own difficulties.

Mary Tyler Moore Showing Off Her Ballet Skills Beautifully On The Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore: TV and Movies

Which is your favorite television show or movie with Mary Tyler Moore?

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Mary Tyler Moore is a trained ballet dancer, former cover model, famed and accomplished television actress and producer and Oscar-nominated movie star. She has gracefully coped with the tragedy of her son's untimely death and also has handled intelligently her medical condition.

Certainly she is one of America's Hollywood legends and all-around great lady. She is known for being down-to-Earth and natural, even at the heights of her fame and fortune.

She is truly a delight to see in her every performance, whether comedy or drama.

It's admirable that she has done what she can to help those with diabetes, both in her work and financially.

Mary Tyler Moore: Beauty, dancer, actress and humanitarian. But, mostly, a good, true and resilient human being.

Mary Tyler Moore with former co-star Dick Van Dyke.
Mary Tyler Moore with former co-star Dick Van Dyke. | Source

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    • NateB11 profile image
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      Nathan Bernardo 21 months ago from California, United States of America

      Yes, it is truly tragic what happened to her son. Thanks for stopping by, Shyron.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 21 months ago from Texas

      Hi Nate, this is my first time to read one of your hubs, and I know it will not be my last. I saw so many interesting titles.

      I loved the Mary Tyler Moor show, and the movie with Elvis, but I must admit I loved Elvis and he was the reason I wanted to see their movie.

      It is so sad the story of what happened to her son.

      Happy New Year from a new fan

    • profile image

      maritza 2 years ago

      THE MOVIE WITH ELVIS WAS AWSOME..BOTH WONDERFUL,TALENTED,GIFTED HUMANS BEINGS..BEAUTIFUL....

    • NateB11 profile image
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      Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

      Thanks, Doug.

    • Dougdenslowe profile image

      Dougdenslowe 2 years ago from San Francisco, California

      Great article.I wish someone would write an article about Mary's first husband Richard Meeker.He disappeared into history and I'd like to know more about his relationship with Mary.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Thank you, Audrey; I truly appreciate your kind words and support. Yes, Mary was a great entertainer and I think story has great significance.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Nate. What wonderful tribute to this great lady. She always made me laugh, something we all need I knew her son died so appreciate your telling the whole story. Your hub shows your ability to tell a story and make it personal to the reader. Thanks for sharing. Blessings. Audrey. Pinning

    • NateB11 profile image
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      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      She's always been one of my favorites too, Glenn. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I missed the news on the tragic death of her son. Your hub brought me up to date with an actress I basically grew up with and loved, having followed her career through all her TV shows.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Yes, it was very tragic, Janis.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      So sad about her son.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Remembering Mary Tyler Moore is nostalgic for me too, thewritingowl. I grew up watching her show. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 3 years ago from Ireland

      I remember watching the Mary Tyler Moore show as a child. It used to be at 10pm after Dallas, so it was a real treat to be allowed up late enough to see it. This article brings back memories.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      I absolutely agree, Kenny. I think she's gorgeous.

      Yes, Bill, it definitely was a great show. It used to be one of my favorites, used to watch it when I was a kid. Merry Christmas to you too, my friend.

    • Hikapo profile image

      Seet 3 years ago from California

      What a cutie pie.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The Mary Tyler Moore show was one of the best comedies ever on tv...great show.

      Merry Christmas my friend.