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Celebrities Whose Children Died Before Them

It’s every parent’s worse nightmare to have one of their children die before they do. Sadly, more than a few celebrities have dealt with this heartbreaking situation. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several stars whose children passed away in an untimely manner. While not everyone we’ll be discussing lost their children to death while they were still young, some were. And those cases, in particular, are challenging to talk about.

Some famous folks create memorial funds for their children while others who are more musically inclined do their best to pay tribute to their dearly departed kids by writing them a song. But regardless of how each star chooses to handle their grief, it’s never easy.

Our intention here isn’t to capitalize on the suffering of others. Far from it. We hope that by bringing attention to these tragic deaths, we can not only pay our respects to these unfortunate souls who are no longer with us but at the same time also raise awareness of a cruel reality that quite a few stars have had to deal with on their own. Being a celebrity can be very alienating at times. While the world all knows your name, along with that fame often comes a great deal of isolation. As a result, coping with loss while being a star can be extremely troublesome. 

So, without further ado, let’s go ahead and get started.

Barbara Eden

There isn’t a day that goes by that the I Dream Of Jeanie star Barbara Eden doesn’t think about her deceased son Matthew. Eden lost her son to death two decades ago in an accidental drug overdose in 2001. Eden told People Magazine back in October that whenever her son was clean and sober, he was nothing but a beautiful human being “inside and out”, but whenever he was using, it was like he was an entirely different person. 

Eden had tried to get pregnant with her first husband, Michael Ansara, for almost seven years before she finally got the good news she had been waiting for. The day that she realized she was pregnant happened to be the same day that she learned that I Dream Of Jeannie had been picked up by NBC.

It was such a joyous day, especially since the sitcom went on to become a smash hit running from 1965 to 1970. Sadly, that joy would be stripped away when Matthew eventually fell into drug abuse and addiction. Before he passed away, he spent 14 years in and out of rehab facilities before finally losing his battle at the age of 35 on June 25, 2001.

Eden told People that there has been nothing worse that she has had to contend with in her life than losing her child. After his passing, she felt a lot of guilt and anger. Fortunately, she has arrived at a place of acceptance at this point in her journey. While she says that one can never fully cope with losing a child, she continues to live her life one day at a time while remembering to count her blessings.

Loretta Lynn

This country music legend’s eldest son, Jack Benny Lynn, passed away in July 1984. According to news reports, on horseback Jack attempted to cross a river on his family’s property near Waverly, Tennessee. Halfway across the raging waters, he fell off the horse and ended up drowning.

Loretta was devastated when she learned of his death. Reportedly she cried non-stop at Jack’s 45-minute funeral. A decade later, Loretta lost her husband of 48 years, Doolittle Lynn, to complications related to diabetes.

In 2013, Loretta’s daughter, Betty Sue, died at the age of 64 after losing her battle to emphysema. Just three years later, Lynn’s oldest grandson, Jeffrey Allen Lynn, passed away suddenly at 47.

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Carol Burnett

Throughout her decades-spanning career on television, Burnett appeared in over 80 different shows including Mad About You, Hot In Cleveland, All My Children and Hawaii Five-O, but what she was most famous for was her series The Carol Burnett Show which ran on CBS for 11 years between 1967 and 1978.

From 1963 to 1984, Burnett was married to TV producer Joe Hamilton. The couple had three daughters, Carrie, Jody, and Erin – all of whom went on to have their own careers in the entertainment industry.

Unfortunately, Carol’s fame and fortune couldn’t protect her family from experiencing tragedy. When her eldest daughter Carrie, started using drugs at the age of 13, her substance abuse would lead her down a dark road that would see her making repeated trips to various rehab facilities. Fortunately, she ended up beating her battle with addiction when she was 17.

But sadly, that didn’t mean a happy ending for Carrie’s life story. She was later diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to her brain. She passed away in 2002 after developing pneumonia.

Carol told Burnett in 2018 that she thinks about her daughter every day.

Mary Tyler Moore

She had the ability to bring a smile to just about anyone’s face whenever she appeared on our television screens, but behind the scenes, when the cameras weren’t rolling, Moore suffered through one of the worst possible tragedies that could befall a mother. In 1980, Moore found out that her only son, Richie Meeker, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 24.

While many people assumed that he had committed suicide, Moore always denied that as a possibility. Richie was an avid gun collector, and the same year that he died, he had already accidentally shot himself one other time.

Moore said in her 1995 memoir, After All, she was asleep when she received a phone call from her then-estranged husband Grant Tinker informing her of the accident.

According to Judy Vasquez, Richie Meeker’s roommate, he was loading and unloading the gun when it went off in his hands. Judy told that Washington Post that she believed that Meeker must have accidentally pulled the trigger. All she heard was a big bang before he fell on the bed he was sitting on.

Paul Newman

On the 20th of November, 1978, Scott Newman, the eldest child of Academy-Award-winning actor Paul Newman, died at age 28.

Scott had accidentally overdosed on narcotics and alcohol in a hotel room in LA. Early that year, he had gotten into a motorcycle accident that resulted in him taking painkillers to relieve his pain. When those pills were combined with booze, the result was deadly.

After he passed away, Paul ended up founding the Scott Newman Center which is dedicated to stopping drug abuse by educating the public about it’s dangers.

Scott had two younger sisters, Susan and Stephanie. He had moved out to California with his father when he was still trying to make it in Hollywood. Before his death, Scott had developed a pretty unhealthy relationship with alcohol. On multiple occasion he had been arrested for minor alcohol-related offenses. On one occasion he had assaulted an officer after vandalizing a school bus while intoxicated.

While he had been living a pretty reckless lifestyle before he passed away, he had also followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a full-time actor in the early 70s. Notably, he starred in the 1975 film The Great Waldo Pepper alongside the next actor we’ll be discussing who lost two of their children to death.

Robert Redford

This 85-year-old Hollywood star has sadly outlived two of his four kids. He lost his son Scott shortly after he was born back in 1954, and in 2020 his son James passed away after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

When he and his ex-wife Lola Van Wagenen welcomed their son, Scott, into the world in September of 1959, they fully expected him to have a long and happy life, but to their horror, he died of sudden infant syndrome just two months later.

Following his death, Robert and Lola held a small, intimate funeral service for him in Utah. They went on to produce three more children, Shauna, Amy, and James. When James passed away, he was just 58 years old.

James spent much of his life battling health issues. Before he reached his 20s he had already had two liver transplants. Taking cues from his father, James likewise got involved with the film industry, although he primarily focused on documentaries that dealt with the topics of health and the environment.

Roy Rogers

For his work in Westerns, Roy was known as the King of the Cowboys and his third wife, Dale Evans, was endearingly called the Queen of the West. While each star had biological children of their own and adopted children from the United States, they also adopted children from abroad long before it became trendy to do so.

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett was the first child that Rogers adopted through the organization Hope Cottage. At the time, he was still married to his second wife, Arline. Three years after adopting little Cheryl, Arline gave birth to their daughter, Linda Lou. On the day she was supposed to come home from the hospital, Arline tragically developed a blood clot and died five days later.

In 1944, Roy met his third wife, Dale, while working together on the set of the film Cowboy and the Senorita. Just three years later, the two were wed.

In 1950, Dale gave birth to a daughter that they named Robin. Unfortunately, she had down syndrome, and while medical professionals insisted that Roy and Dale have her institutionalized, they emphatically refused to do that to their baby girl.

Just two years after she was born, Robin came down with mumps which developed into brain fever. Sadly, she did not survive the ordeal.

To cope with the grief of losing her daughter, Dale wrote the book Angel Unaware – the proceeds of which went to the National Association for Retarded Children, which has since been renamed The Arc.

Roy Rogers and his wife would go on to adopt several more children. In total, Roy had nine kids who called him Dad.

Johnny Carson

This star was the reigning king of late-night for the decades that he was on the air, but he experienced a devastating lost on June 21, 1991 when he learned that his second son, Rick, had died in a car accident.

Rick was only 39 when he passed.

Carson delivered a heartfelt eulogy during Rick’s funeral. In that speech, the usually private celebrity admitted just how much he was struggling with his son’s death. He referred to the loss as the most challenging moment of his life. He also shared that when a parent loses a child to death, it forces them to become quite conscious of what’s most important in life.

Although many years have passed since the majority of the stars we just discussed lost their children to death, we still want to offer our sincerest of condolences. As we mentioned at the outset of this video, no parent should ever have to see their children die before they do. It’s unimaginable how heartbreaking that experience must be.

Can you think of any other stars who had children die before they did? Let us know in the comments section.

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