“I find her a constant source of rejuvenation,” Mike Farrell said of Shelley Fabares.
Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame was married to his co-star, Judy Farell, for over 20 years, getting divorced the year the TV series came to an end. In his autobiography, Just Call Me Mike, he goes into great detail about his connection with Judy and how she inspired him to pursue performing. It was at the Laguna Playhouse in California, where they both started their careers.
While Judy was supportive when Mike moved to Hollywood, the distance started to cause problems between the couple. Mike and Judy had two wonderful children and were "doting parents," but their lives ultimately continued to go in separate paths, which led to the divorce.
In his book, Mike said, "I was devastated." However, the couple remained amicable, per MeTV.
In hindsight, it was all worth it, because he would go on to meet the love of his life, Shelley Fabares.
The pair got married in 1984, a year after M*A*S*H folded its TV tents, at the Pacific Palisades residence of Fabares' aunt, seasoned actor Nanette Fabray. Their early days together were difficult. Mike's two children from his previous marriage did not immediately embrace their new stepmother, per PEOPLE. “The divorce was very hard on the kids,” said Fabares. “It took a lot of love, patience, courage, and strength, but now they have two solid homes, which is what we all wanted.”
Then there were the harder battles. Elsa Fabares, Fabares' mother, started to show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and she and her sister, Smokey, now 50, were forced to place their mother in a care home. “Physically, I was gone 98 percent of the time. I just stayed at the hospital for months, and never, ever did Mike question it. He was always easing my mind. He ran everything for me. He has become my safe harbor. To have his strength when everything else is out of control…that’s the unbelievable gift he has given,” she said.
After a few pleasant years together, Fabares suffered from esophageal bleeding and required a liver donation in early 1999. Mike became his wife's full-time caretaker when her condition began to deteriorate and nurtured her back to health. She is now robust and joyful 23 years later, thanks to a successful liver transplant, per MedicineNet. "I have been so changed by this experience," she said. "I am so incredibly blessed by the man I am married to. I was so very ill for such a long time, and we didn't know what was wrong, but he was with me every step of the way - accompanying me to every doctor's appointment. He's just monumental, and I don't know how I could have gotten through this without him," she added.
Mike is equally appreciative of his partner, saying, “There is a light inside her that is just magical. I find her a constant source of rejuvenation.” Fabares responded, “Mike grounds me, and I think I pull him out sometimes. It’s a nice mix.”
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | (L) Amanda Edwards; (R) Robert Mora