Mary Tyler Moore Didn’t See Her Son Needed Her for Years & Began to Go Blind after He Died at 24

    Mary Tyler Moore would have been 87 years old today.

    The actress began to lose her sight in the later years of her life.

    However, her life’s most significant tragedy was the sudden death of her son at the age of 24.

    Mary Tyler Moore rose to fame as the star of the beloved sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which premiered in 1970. The show’s portrayal of Mary Richards—a single and independent woman navigating her career and personal life in Minneapolis—captivated audiences.

    Before her television success, Moore had her fair share of personal experiences. Her first marriage was to Richard Carleton Meeker when she was 18 in 1955. The couple welcomed their son, Richard “Richie” Meeker Jr., the following year. However, their marriage didn’t last long; they divorced in 1961.

    Publicity handout of television actress Mary Tyler Moore (1936- 2017), circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

    Throughout her career, Moore’s dedication to her work often took precedence over her role as a mother. She openly admitted that she was not the best mother and expressed regret for not being there for Richie during his formative years. Moore’s busy schedule and demanding workload left little time for her to be fully present in her son’s life.

    She was seen with a swollen, shiny face, which some speculated was the result of cosmetic procedures.
    As a result, their relationship became strained over time, and they experienced a period of estrangement. Moore acknowledged that she had let Richie down and was more self-concerned than attentive to his needs when he was young. This contributed to their growing alienation.

    In her memoir, “After All,” published in 1995, Moore reflected on her shortcomings as a mother, stating that by the time Richie was 5, she had already failed him. Despite her remorse, Moore’s career obligations kept her occupied and distant from her son.

    It wasn’t long before Richie’s journey took him away from his mom. He moved with his father to Fresno, California, where he flourished and expressed ambitions for college. However, his life took a different turn when he encountered drug-related troubles, reaching out to his mother in a moment of desperation.

    This phone call marked a turning point for the mother-son duo. Richie sought treatment and began to turn his life around. Eventually, he moved back in with Moore and successfully graduated from high school, although Moore was unable to attend the ceremony due to work commitments.

    Over time, Moore and Richie mended their relationship. They rebuilt their connection, and Richie even ventured into acting, following in his mother’s footsteps. He secured minor roles on television, finding his own path in the industry.

    Betty White, as Sue Ann Nivens, Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, Georgia Engel as Georgette Franklin Baxter, Gavin McLeod as Murray Slaughter, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, and Ed Asner as Lou Grant pictured on the set of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." | Source: Getty Images

    Six months after her divorce from Meeker, Moore married Grant Tinker, who had four children from a previous marriage. The pair tied the knot in 1962 and parted ways in 1981.

    How Mary Tyler Moore Lived through an Unspeakable Tragedy & Found Love Again
    Moore experienced profound devastation and guilt following the death of her son, Richie. In 1980, she received the heart-shattering news that Richie had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 24.

    Richie was an avid gun collector and had reportedly been playing with a gun called the “Snake Charmer” while watching TV in his room when the accident occurred. The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office confirmed the accidental nature of his death through a formal investigation.

    This gut-wrenching loss deeply affected Moore, and she expressed regret for not being the best mother she could have been. She wished she either had children later in life or had more kids to do a better job as a mother.

    The pain of losing a child was incomparable, and Moore acknowledged that she hadn’t invested enough in her relationship with Richie. She felt guilt but emphasized that it was ultimately his life, and their happiness together was cut short.

    However, the experience of losing her son continued to haunt Moore, and she shared her anguish in a 1995 interview. The insurmountable grief of losing Richie, their vibrant bond, and the untimely end of their relationship left Moore in pieces. She reflected on the importance of cherishing their time together and expressed profound sadness about saying goodbye abruptly.

    Mary Tyler Moore and husband Robert Levine in New York City, circa 1984. | Source: Getty Images

    Despite all her hidden pain, Moore found love and support in her marriage to Dr. Robert Levine, a cardiologist. Their relationship began when Levine treated Moore’s mother, and she asked him if he had a cure for acute loneliness.

    They married in 1983, even though they faced criticism due to their age difference. Levine cherished his role as Moore’s protector and cared for her throughout their 33-year-long marriage.

    Mary Tyler Moore & husband Dr. Robert Levine, attend the Broadway opening night performance of 'Follies' at the Marquis Theatre in New York City in 2011. | Source: Getty Images

    Moore, once considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, concealed her personal struggles and tragedies behind her public image. She kept the painful event of losing her beloved son hidden from the public, locking it away in a “dark room” of her heart. She chose to keep busy and sought solace in answering the thousands of condolence letters she received.

    The “Ordinary People” alum scattered her son’s ashes into the Owen River in the days after his tragic demise. She recalled, “The water was clear and high as I knelt over it. I opened the container and emptied it into the rushing water. What was meant to be a prayer became an outraged demand. ‘You take care of him,’ I screamed at the sky.”

    In 2011, Moore’s appearance began to change, leading to rumors of plastic surgery. She was seen with a swollen, shiny face, which some speculated was the result of cosmetic procedures.

    However, a source revealed that the actress had a fall after tripping over her Golden Retriever. Despite this incident, Moore’s face remained tight, possibly due to previous surgeries such as facelifts, a nose job, and lip augmentation.

    Another hidden aspect of the “Rhoda” star’s life was her declining eyesight. According to Moore’s widower, Dr. Levine, she hid her blindness for decades from the public. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 34, Moore underwent retinal photocoagulation therapy in the late ’80s to preserve her central retina.

    The treatment allowed her to continue reading and working, but her vision was limited, and she had tunnel vision. Over time, her sight deteriorated further, affecting her ability to walk and read. In 2012, she needed assistance to reach the stage when receiving a SAG award.

    Moore, known for her iconic roles in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” passed away in 2017. In her memory, her husband established the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, dedicated to combating diabetic retinal illness.

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