Dick Van Dyke Lost 2 Women to Cancer before Marrying His 46-Years-Younger Wife a Few Years Later

Television icon Dick Van Dyke lost two romantic partners to cancer. He realized he couldn’t live alone, so he married a makeup artist 46 years his junior.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” star Dick Van Dyke has been candid about three of the most influential women in his life: his first wife Margie Willett, his longtime partner Michelle Triola, and his current spouse Arlene Silver.

While Van Dyke is happily married to his 46 years younger wife, he grieved the passing of his two previous partners. They both died of cancer, and he lied to Triola when she asked if she would beat her illness.

Dick Van Dyke on November 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California [left]. Van Dyke and Michelle Triola on March 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California [right] | Photo: Getty Images

Van Dyke and Willett grew up in Danville, a small town in Illinois. In 1945, she broke up with her high school boyfriend – a member of the football and wrestling teams – to be with the aspiring actor. 

Three years later, the couple was determined to tie the knot, but they didn’t have money. Still, they married on an ABC radio show called “Bride and Groom” in 1948.

Van Dyke and Willett moved to Malibu, and she got pregnant with twins. She lost the babies, and while they were in the hospital, their landlord evicted them for not paying rent.

Dick Van Dyke on July 11, 1955 on “The Morning Show” | Photo: Getty Images

The lovebirds kept trying to enlarge their families and welcomed four children. Their finances improved when Van Dyke’s acting career skyrocketed in the 1960s. Still, Willett preferred a quiet life and spent most of her time in the family’s Arizona ranch.

In 1976, after being together for over three decades, Van Dyke and Willett parted ways. The actor admitted he started an affair with actress Michelle Triola. They officially divorced in 1984.

Willett kept her life away from the spotlight following her divorce, and it is unclear if she ever remarried. She made headlines again in 2008 when she passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Dick Van Dyke with his wife Margie Willett on April 15, 1964 | Photo: Getty Images


Van Dyke and Triola’s relationship was much more than an affair, but he was not the only celebrity Triola dated. The “Diagnosis: Murder” actress was in a relationship with actor Lee Marvin for six years. 

Triola and Marvin’s romance also began as an affair: he was still married to the mother of his four children. They split in 1970, and she received $833 a month from him.

[Van Dyke] had never been without a partner looking out for him.

Michelle Triola and Dick Van Dyke in Los Angeles, California in 2007 | Photo: Getty Images

They previously agreed she would give up on her career to be his companion and homemaker. In exchange, Marvin would support Triola her whole life. She took him to court when he stopped sending her money in 1971.

Although the judge sided with Marvin, the actor had to pay Triola $104,000 for palimony. The court overturned that decision in 1981, though. Shortly after leaving Marvin, Triola met Van Dyke. Although they never married, they lived together for over 30 years.

Dick Van Dyke on October 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

While Van Dyke and Willett had been separated for 24 years, her passing was hard to process. He admitted he lost a part of himself with her death, but life had another hardship prepared: Triola was diagnosed with lung cancer one year after Willett died. Van Dyke confessed

“When she asked if she was going to die, I pretended I didn’t know – the hardest acting I have ever done.”

Triola passed away in 2009. Van Dyke was alone for one year and “lost it.” He realized he could not live alone as he had never been without a partner looking out for him. 

In 2006, the actor met makeup artist Silver at an awards dinner. Despite their age difference (46 years), they became good friends, and their love “just grew from there.” 

Van Dyke confessed that they don’t feel the age gap because he is “emotionally immature,” and she is wise for her age. They married in 2012, and some people thought he was “crazy.”

Silver pointed out that not even her friends thought their age difference was a big deal. Most were happy, which made it easier for them because they knew they had nothing to worry about.

She once described her husband as the perfect human being and partner, adding that she waited for the right man and went through “a lot of frogs” to get her prince. 

Leave a Comment