"Her doctor said she could still hear," Van Dyke wrote in his memoir, "so I sang and talked to her until the hospice nurses told me she was gone."
At the end of his teen years, Dick Van Dyke started dating Margie Willett, who would become his first wife. Even though they had known one other for many years and had both grown up in Danville, Illinois, the actor claimed in an August 2016 interview with The Guardian that he only started seeing Willett at the end of his teenage years.
He and Willett had a lovely marriage, but it wasn't without its challenges. The couple miscarried twins before the birth of their first child, Christian. He described his love Maggie as being "earthy and artistic," and that she didn't like Hollywood. Christian, Barry, Stacy, and Carrie Beth were the children Van Dyke and Willett had together.
Dick Van Dyke spent 30+ years with Michelle Triola but the couple never got married. Read more about her here: https://t.co/kaQgikmiqM#DickVanDyke was recognized at this year's #KennedyCenterHonors, which airs tonight on CBS. @HeavySan #entertainment pic.twitter.com/yUTFaIPsCx— Erin Laviola - Freelance Writer (@ErinLaviola) June 6, 2021
There were problems in the relationship between the pair, per PEOPLE. The actor claimed that during their relationship, both of them struggled with addiction—Van Dyke battled alcoholism, while his wife was "hooked on antidepressants." Margie, who had never been fond of Hollywood "or its stars," started spending more time at the family's ranch in the desert in the years that followed.
Van Dyke found himself confiding in Michelle Triola, his agent's assistant. After 36 years of marriage, the pair chose to live separate lives but didn't get divorced until 1984. Margie went on to die of pancreatic cancer, which had a profoundly negative impact on him. "Even though we were long divorced, with her death I lost a part of myself," he writes.
The saddest part of his struggle has probably been witnessing others close to him die of serious illnesses. After separating from Margie, the actor had an amazing relationship with Michelle. "She was feisty, smart, and unlike Margie, knew the showbiz world inside out. Michelle and I went on to have 35 very happy years together. We talked about marrying, but I could never get her to put a date in the diary," he revealed. "She was easy to talk to, she understood me," he wrote.
Michelle, who received a lung cancer diagnosis a year after Margie's passing, also got really sick. Van Dyke stayed by Michelle's side till her passing in 2009, per Country Living. She spent her final days in a coma, and Van Dyke was a steadfast partner to her, singing to her in her last days. "Her doctor said she could still hear," Van Dyke wrote in his memoir, "so I sang and talked to her until the hospice nurses told me she was gone."
Van Dyke also experienced some of his hardest days during this time. "When she asked if she was going to die, I pretended I didn’t know – the hardest acting I have ever done. After she passed, I realized I had never been without a companion looking out for me," he told The Guardian.
Cover Image Source: (L) Getty Images | Joshua Blanchard ; (R) Getty Images | Alberto E. Rodriguez