Who is Dick Van Dyke’s Ex-wife Margie Willett and What Was Her Cause of Death?

Margie Willett was the wife of Dick Van Dyke, the world-famous, multi-award-winning American actor, entertainer, and comedian. Margie and Van Dyke were married for more than three decades and had four children together before parting ways.

Margie did not like the spotlight as much as her famous ex-husband and so she kept a relatively low profile throughout her life. However, her ex-husband’s popularity apparently rubbed off on her. Sadly, she passed away in 2008 at the age of 81 after battling pancreatic cancer.

Summary of Margie Willett’s Biography

  • Full name: Margie Willett
  • Gender: Female
  • Date of birth: 1927
  • Died: 2008
  • Age at death: 81
  • Nationality: American
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Marital Status: Divorced
  • Margie Willett’s Ex-Husband: Dick Van Dyke
  • Margie Willett’s Children: Christian Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, Stacy Van Dyke, and Carrie Beth Van Dyke
  • Famous for: Being Dick Van Dyke’s ex-wife

Margie Willett Was Born In 1927 In Illinois

Margie Willet was born in Danville, a city in and the county seat of Vermilion County, Illinois, USA. This was also where she grew up with her family. Margie was born in the year 1927. however, details about the exact day and month of her birth remain vague.

Not much is known about her family and background. So, the identity of her parents is not clear. It is also not clear if she had a sibling with whom she grew up in Danville and details about where she went to school and what she studied remain out of reach.

Basically, virtually everything known about Margie Willet is connected to her relationship and marriage to famous her ex-husband, Dick Van Dyke.

Margie Willett
Margie Willett and Dick Van Dyke

How Margie Willett and Dick Van Dyke Began Their Romance

Margie Willett and Dick Van Dyke both grew up together in the small town of Danville, Illinois. They knew each other as children and had taken a liking to each other as teenagers. Eventually, they started dating. According to our findings, their romantic journey began in 1945 when Margie was 18 years old and Van Dyke was just 20 years old.

Interestingly, Margie, who was already in a relationship with her high school sweetheart at the time, decided to dump her boyfriend just to be with Van Dyke. This caused serious problems because Margie’s ex threatened to beat up Van Dyke for snatching his girlfriend. But the couple continued their romance and soon everyone in their small town knew about it.

Margie Became Dick Van Dyke’s Wife On A Radio Show

After nearly three years of dating, Margie Willett and Van Dyke decided to get married. However, they were broke and didn’t have enough money to tie the knot. In a candid 2016 interview with The Guardian, Van Dyke revealed that they were simply “too broke to get married.” Fortunately for them, a generous radio producer offered to help them pay for the cost of their marriage.

However, the radio producer also came up with an unconventional offer: He would sponsor their wedding and honeymoon if they agreed to tie the knot on his radio show. Van Dyke and Willett, undeterred by the unorthodox nature of the proposal, recognized it as their ticket to matrimony and so they agreed to the deal.

Eventually, on February 12, 1948, Margie Willett and Van Dyke said their vows on the radio show called Bride and Groom. Van Dyke humorously recounted the unconventional circumstances, stating that they exchanged their sacred vows in front of a minister and two radio microphones. Reflecting on the immense reach of their marriage ceremony, Van Dyke fondly acknowledged that approximately 15 million people tuned in to witness their union in 1948.

Margie Willett And Her Husband Initially Struggled To Make Ends Meet After Marriage

At the time of Margie Willet’s wedding to Dick Van Dyke, the actor, and comedian had not yet attained the level of fame and success that we now know him for and the couple had no money.

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In fact, the early years of their marriage proved to be a challenging period as they struggled to make ends meet. Their financial circumstances were such that they faced the daunting reality of not being able to afford a place to call home. Instead, they resorted to an unconventional living arrangement, finding themselves temporarily residing in their car.

The early stages of Van Dyke’s career were characterized by slow progress, and so he and Margie continued to face financial uncertainty as very little money came in for them. Eventually, as their circumstances improved, Willett and Van managed to secure a house in the picturesque area of Malibu but still, the money was only coming slowly at the time.

During this period of their lives, Margie Willett got pregnant with twins. However, their happiness was abruptly shattered by the heartbreaking tragedy of a miscarriage. The emotional toll was immense, leaving the couple to grapple with the profound grief and loss of their unborn children.

As they coped with the devastating loss, their circumstances took an additional blow because while they were at the hospital, their landlord in Malibu made the unfortunate decision to evict them due to their inability to pay their rent. It was a bleak period for the couple.

However, shortly after this, Dick Van Dyke’s career gained traction, as doors to new opportunities began to open, elevating their financial situation. Money began to flow in better and the family heaved a sigh of relief.

Dick Van Dyke and Margie Willett

Margie’s Ex-Husband Went On To Become A Hollywood Legend

Despite his small beginnings, Margie Willet’s ex-husband, Dick Van Dyke went on to do great things in Hollywood. He is now a highly esteemed American actor, entertainer, and comedian. With a career that has spanned an impressive seven decades, he has left an indelible mark on the realms of film, television, and stage. Van Dyke’s extraordinary talent has garnered him numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe, Tony Award, Grammy, Daytime Emmy, and four Primetime Emmys.

In recognition of his exceptional contributions, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. Furthermore, he was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2013, bestowed with the Kennedy Center Honors in 2021, and acknowledged as a Disney Legend.

Van Dyke’s illustrious career commenced as an entertainer on TV, radio, and even nightclubs, and on Broadway stages. Eventually, in 1961, he garnered national acclaim for his role in the original production of Bye Bye Birdie, a role that earned him the prestigious Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and launched him to huge stardom.

He went on to become a household name when he was cast by Carl Reiner as Rob Petrie in the CBS television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, which aired from 1961 to 1966. This iconic role catapulted Van to household fame and solidified his position as a beloved figure in the entertainment industry. Throughout his illustrious career, Van has graced the silver screen in a series of memorable film roles, including Mary Poppins (1964), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Van’s television appearances have been equally noteworthy. He made guest appearances on popular programs like Columbo (1974) and The Carol Burnett Show (1977). He also headlined his own show, The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974), and captivated audiences with his performances in long-running series such as Diagnosis: Murder (1993-2001) and Murder 101 (2006-2008).

Margie Willet Hated Fame And The Glamour Of Hollywood

Despite being married to one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, Margie Willett held a distinct aversion to the glitz and glamour associated with the entertainment industry. She hated fame and disliked having to be the center of attraction. She also hated Hollywood events where several people usually came together.

As Dick Van Dyke’s career soared to new heights in Hollywood, Margie Willett found herself grappling with the challenges of her husband’s fame and the accompanying lifestyle. Van Dyke candidly revealed in an interview with The Guardian that Margie Willett often felt overshadowed and disregarded at showbiz events, as people clamored to engage with him.

Also, her nonchalant approach to personal appearance, with short hair and a lack of makeup, led to instances where they were mistaken for siblings rather than husband and wife. In an excerpt from his memoir published by The Daily Mail, Van Dyke said Margie harbored a deep-seated distaste for the movie industry and its stars.

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However, there was an exception that captured her interest. In 1972, Margie and Van Dyke received a highly coveted invitation to dine at the home of none other than the legendary Frank Sinatra. Van Dyke revealed that Margie Willett uncharacteristically held high hopes for the evening, yearning for Sinatra to serenade them with his iconic voice. Unfortunately, Sinatra was not in the mood to perform, leaving Willett somewhat disappointed.

Also, Van Dyke revealed that Margie Willett preferred to live on the family’s ranch and not in the city with all its glitz. In the late 1960s, Willett and Van Dyke made a significant investment, acquiring a sprawling ranch located in Cave Creek, Arizona. This ranch became the sanctuary where Margie could escape the glitz and pressures of the entertainment industry.

Margie Willett
Dick Van Dyke and Margie Willett

Margie Willett And Dick Van Dyke Had Four Children Together

Margie Willett and Dick Van Dyke had four children together called Christian Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, Stacy Van Dyke, and Carrie Beth Van Dyke. Interestingly, the Van Dyke children all had an interest in the entertainment industry just like their father. They also had early introductions to Hollywood, making appearances on their father’s shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Diagnosis: Murder, and The New Dick Van Dyke Show.

Christian Van Dyke Is Their First Child

Christian Van Dyke, the eldest of the siblings, who was born in 1950, made his acting debut on January 31, 1962, at a young age on The Dick Van Dyke Show. But, although he ventured into showbiz early on, Christian ultimately chose a different path. After attending Occidental College in Los Angeles, he pursued a law degree at Arizona State University, as reported by Cascade Business News.

Following his graduation, Christian embarked on a successful legal career, serving as a deputy district attorney in Corvallis, assistant attorney general in Salem, and district attorney in Marion County. He even delved into the corporate world, working as corporate counsel for Nike and later becoming the vice president of marketing at Patagonia.

Barry Van Dyke

Barry Van Dyke, the second child of Margie Willet and Van Dyke, was born on July 31, 1951. Despite his early exposure to the entertainment industry, Barry did not pursue acting as a child. His father, Dick, made the decision to let him wait until he was older to explore a career in the field. During his teenage years, Barry worked at a local movie theater, where he encountered his future wife, Mary Carey, at the age of 16.

He gained valuable production experience by working as a gofer on The New Dick Van Dyke Show, holding cue cards and immersing himself in the behind-the-scenes aspects of television production. With the help of his father’s connections, Barry secured an agent, leading to roles as an extra and in small parts in various films and shows such as Galactica 1980, Airwolf, and Casino.

Stacy Van Dyke

The couple’s third child, Stacy Van Dyke, born around 1955, joined her famous father on screen, showcasing her acting skills in roles like Sally on The New Dick Van Dyke Show and Carol Hilton on Diagnosis: Murder. It seems that acting was always a passion for Stacy, as her father praised her talent ahead of her television debut. During the 1970s, Stacy became part of the performing group called the Barnstormers at the Windmill Dinner Theater, leaving a mark on Phoenix’s theater history.

Carrie Beth Van Dyke Is The Couple’s Last Child

The youngest of the Van Dyke children, Carrie Beth Van Dyke, was born in 1961. She made appearances on The New Dick Van Dyke Show, starring in two series episodes in the early ’70s. Unlike her siblings, Carrie chose to lead a life away from the spotlight.

In 1983, she married Kevin McNally, an actor, and musician, who later appeared in 19 episodes of Diagnosis: Murder alongside her father. Carrie has enjoyed a more private existence, nurturing her personal life and interests away from the public eye.

Both Margie And Van Dyke Checked Into Rehab To Battle Addictions

According to our findings, both Margie Willet and her ex-husband, Dick Van Dyke faced their own battles with addiction during their marriage. This led them to seek help and check into rehab facilities. While Dick struggled with alcoholism, Margie found herself dependent on anti-depressant medication. In a revealing account from his memoir, Van Dyke disclosed that in 1972, he made the courageous decision to confront his alcohol addiction head-on and voluntarily entered a rehabilitation program.

But, little did he know that Margie was also wrestling with her own dependency issues. It was on the day of his departure from rehab that he received the unexpected news. As Van Dyke prepared to leave the facility, eagerly anticipating Margie’s arrival to pick him up, he was met with a surprising twist. The counselor approached him with the revelation that Margie, too, had checked herself into the same rehab center.

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Apparently, she had been grappling with an addiction to Librium, a medication prescribed to alleviate anxiety and depression. The realization that both he and Margie were struggling with their own forms of addiction struck Dick profoundly. The couple’s simultaneous battles with substance abuse painted a complex picture of their shared struggles.

Margie Willett
Margie Willett and Dick Van Dyke

Why Margie Willet and Dick Van Dyke’s Marriage Ended After 36 Years

Margie Willet and Dick Van Dyke’s marriage hit the rocks when Dick became involved in an extramarital affair with Michelle Triola, his agent’s secretary. The affair began in 1975, shortly after Margie’s release from rehab, and slowly drove a wedge between the couple.

As Margie and Van Dyke drifted further apart, he found solace in the company of Michelle Triola, whom he had been confiding in. Over time, their connection evolved into a romantic relationship, leading Dick to engage in infidelity and betray his marriage vows.

Their affair remained concealed, shrouded in secrecy until the weight of guilt became unbearable for Van Dyke. Overwhelmed by remorse, he made the difficult decision to disclose the truth to Margie in 1976. The revelation deeply hurt Margie, causing profound pain and anguish within their relationship.

In the aftermath of this revelation, the couple chose to separate, as the trust and foundation of their marriage had been irreparably damaged. Reflecting on their tumultuous journey, Dick shared with The Guardian that their divorce was officially finalized in 1984 and they both went their separate ways. They were married for 36 long years.

According to some reports, Margie Willett never remarried after parting ways with her ex-husband, Van Dyke. She lived a very quiet life, the way she loved to live, until she sadly passed away.

What Did Margie Willett Do For A Living?

Margie Willett’s professional life remained relatively unknown and shrouded in mystery, as she consciously opted to live a life away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. While her husband, Dick Van, rose to prominence as a beloved actor and entertainer, Margie chose a path that focused on the important role of being a devoted wife and mother.

Reports indicate that Margie primarily embraced the role of a dedicated stay-at-home mom, assuming the responsibilities of managing the household and nurturing their children while Dick pursued his flourishing career. Her commitment to creating a nurturing and supportive environment for their family allowed Dick to focus on his artistic endeavors and achieve success in the entertainment industry.

By prioritizing the well-being and upbringing of their children, Margie played a vital behind-the-scenes role, providing stability and love within the family unit. While specific details about Margie’s professional endeavors may remain undisclosed, her apparent contributions as a devoted partner and caring mother cannot be underestimated.

Margie Died In 2008, At Age 81, After Battling Pancreatic Cancer

Tragically, Margie Willett passed away in 2008. According to reports, she succumbed to pancreatic cancer, just one year after receiving the devastating diagnosis. She was 81 years old at the time of her death.

Even though they had been divorced for a long time, Margie Willet’s death had a profound impact on Dick Van Dyke. In an interview with the Guardian, Dick opened up about the profound loss he experienced, expressing that a significant part of himself seemed to vanish along with Margie.

This was understandable considering the fact the former couple had navigated the highs and lows of life together, starting from when they had nothing. Van Dyke’s candid acknowledgment of losing a part of himself with Margie’s passing touched the hearts of many who admired him both as an entertainer and as a human being.

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