Mary Tyler Moore Once Confessed She Had Let Her Only Son Richie Down by the Time He Was 5

Mary Tyler Moore was America’s sweetheart during her prime. However, the delightful actress suffered some hard times, which made her doubt her parenting abilities. 

Mary Tyler Moore stole the hearts of many when she began appearing on different hit shows. The talented and vibrant young woman became a staple in the industry following her appearance on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” 

It was one of Moore’s most famous works and was from the stables of her MGM Enterprise co-founded by her and Grant Tinker, her second husband.

Mary Tyler Moore speak onstage during The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 29, 2012 [left]. Richard G. Meeker, Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Meeker Jr at a Teach Foundation benefit [right] | Photo: Getty Images

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” star acted as an independent woman on the hit program. Many fans loved to see the young beauty bring Mary to life with her enchanting acting skills and poise.

In reality, Moore was also a sweet woman, raised in a Catholic home. However, she battled some demons following her fame and fortune. The actress witnessed two failed marriages, had a son who died at age 24, and later succumbed to her pain by turning to alcohol. 

Mary Tyler Moore makes an appearance as a presenter during 4th Annual TV Land Awards, in Santa Monica, California | Photo: Getty Images


Moore had the perfect life as a young adult, seasoned with an intriguing career she always dreamed of. As a child, she mostly displayed her singing and dancing talents in school and later in commercials.

The youngster later graduated into acting, and in no time, became a famous onscreen diva. At age 18, the actress fell for Producer Richard Carleton Meeker, ten years her senior.

By 1955, after graduating from high school, Moore said yes to her first husband. She was in love with him, and it did not take long after they had wedded for them to start a family.

Mary Tyler Moore poses backstage at the 2006 TV Land Awards at the Barker Hangar | Photo: Getty Images

The pair welcomed a son, Richie, in 1956, and everything seemed perfect. Meeker had the ideal job as a sales manager, and the small family lived four blocks away from Moore’s parents.

Six years down the line, the lovers ended their marriage. However, despite the nature of their relationship, Moore didn’t see it as a failed marriage; she explained that things were great during their romance, and they both learned from each other.

A year later, Moore moved on with Grant Tinker, a CBS staff, who later worked with NBC. Their marriage lasted for more than a decade before things fell apart.

Mary Tyler Moore attends the Farm Sanctuary Gala 2004 at The Plaza Hotel on May 22, 2004 | Photo: Getty Images


As a young family woman, Moore often spent more time with work than she did with her son. She began to bag more TV features when Richie turned 3. By the time he was a 6-year-old boy, the mother was with her second husband, also a busy bee.

Tinker did not have any kids with the actress, but he was already a father of four kids from his previous marriage. However, this did not affect his compassion for the young Richie, as the two were somewhat close.

As time went by, it became nearly impossible for the couple to create time for their family. Of course, their increasing workload was to blame, and Moore became more demanding of her mini-me.

Mary Tyler Moore accepts the Life Achievement Award on January 29, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images.

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” actress accepted her flaws as a busy parent who made no time for Richie. She blamed herself for alienating him, adding in her memoir that she was self-absorbed and busier as Richie got older:

“There is no question about it. By the time Richie was 5, I had already let him down. When he needed me the most, I was busier and even more self-concerned than I had been when he was an impressionable infant.”

American actress Mary Tyler Moore, circa 1970. | Photo: Getty Images

Richie was not oblivious to his mom’s neglect, and in the end, it wedged a wall between them. He rebelled, and they were estranged for a long time. 

As he advanced into adulthood, he left his mother’s jurisdiction to settle with his dad in Fresno, California. There was a 360-degree change in his behavior, and Richie became a promising young man. 

Meeker soon left the town due to his work, but Richie begged his parents to let him finish school in Fresno. They accommodated his request, but he resorted to keeping bad company and taking drugs.

Mary Tyler Moore in a scene from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, Los Angeles, California, 1970 | Photo: Getty Images

Richie was so addicted to the lifestyle under no parental supervision that he owed a cocaine dealer some money, which nearly cost him his life.

After putting a call through to his famous mother, he paid the debt, and a disheartened Moore enlisted the help of a doctor. The young man responded to therapy and started living a positive lifestyle.

He graduated from high school sober, but amid the joy of being able to combat his demons, he suffered from neglect from his mother one more time — she was absent from his high school graduation due to work!

Close-up of smiling actress Mary Tyler Moore who stars in the television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, circa 1975. | Photo: Getty Images


All seemed to be working fine for Richie. He left high school to further his education at the University of Southern California, but his dreams crumbled as he died in 1980.

Moore was asleep when she received a call from her ex-husband. Tinker told her that Richie shot himself by accident in his apartment. The news crippled the actress, but she found it unbelievable and wanted to see her son.

Actress Mary Tyler Moore poses with her Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild backstage at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images

Moore raced to California, joining Richie’s father and Tinker, who were bereaved but tried to support her. They later found out that the 24-year-old loved to store guns and, on that day, did not know that he would pull the trigger.

Richie’s burial was an outdoor event, with his loved ones present to grieve their loss. After the ceremony, his mother was handed his ashes, and Meeker drove her to Owens River to spend time alone with his remains. 

Actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore speak onstage during The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards broadcast on TNT/TBS at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images

Moore was not aware of how badly things could go at the time of her neglect. Still, she ensured to highlight her poor behavior years later and was refreshingly honest about how she might have contributed to Richie’s sad ending.

After his demise, the actress revealed that she would have loved to have more kids to show that she could be a better parent than she was to Richie.

In 2017, Moore died of pneumonia at age 80. She never had another child but found true love in the arms of Dr. Robert Levine, who remained with her until death.

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