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Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert said she is “aching” for her “Pa” Michael Landon 31 years after he died. More than a co-star, he was a mentor, father figure, friend, and boss to her. Read on to learn more about what once fractured their relationship and what she said about life without him since his 1991 death.

(l-r) Matthew Laborteaux, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon
(l-r) Matthew Laborteaux, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank

Michael Landon was Melissa Gilbert’s mentor since she auditioned for ‘Little House on the Prairie’

When Gilbert tried out for her role on Little House on the Prairie, she met Landon, who subsequently had a lifelong impact on her. She was selected to play Laura Ingalls, his onscreen daughter, and the show’s central character.

Landon and Gilbert formed a bond then, and when her father died, he stepped in as a father figure. She spent time with him and his family, including his first wife, along with her mother.

Things changed when Landon had an affair with a stand-in on the show whom he later married. Gilbert stopped speaking to him because she also felt betrayed.

But they reconnected at his daughter’s wedding shortly before Landon died of pancreatic cancer. And 31 years later, Gilbert said she still feels “the grief and loss deeply today.”

Melissa Gilbert is ‘aching for Michael Landon’ on the 31st anniversary of his death

In honor of Landon, Gilbert wrote a blog post on the 31st anniversary of his death, July 1, 2022. Notably, she once said his “felt like a death” to her, too.

“Today is the 31st anniversary of the death of one of the most influential people in my life and I am so, so sad,” she wrote for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

“Today I am missing my mentor, my acting partner, my favorite director, father figure, friend and boss,” she shared.

She added, “Today I am missing my Pa … Michael Landon. So much so, I can feel it in my chest, in my heart. I am aching for him.”

According to Gilbert, Landon isn’t only missed for the place he had in her life. She said his voice would have been a “comfort during these difficult times.”

She described him as “a principled, honorable man who believed, first and foremost in the power of love, tolerance, compassion and understanding.”

“He was a fierce warrior for human rights,” she shared, “and he was just that magical bit better at telling those stories than anyone else.

Michael Landon’s death was ‘cruel and brutal,’ according to Melissa Gilbert


Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon Had a Meaningful Last Visit Before His Death: What They Said to Each Other

Gilbert spent time honoring his life, but she also shared her anger about his death, which she was once advised to capitalize on. She said it was “cruel and brutal” and “would not have happened had it not been for the vicious, pernicious, horrendous disease of pancreatic cancer.”

“This scourge that is pancreatic cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you do for a living, how old you are, what religion, nationality, color or gender you are,” she shared in the blog post.

She declared, “It is a brutal and vicious killer and it robbed me of a beloved one.”

Gilbert concluded her post by asking readers to consider donating to PanCAN in Landon’s honor. “You can help end this disease and its horrid, indiscriminate destruction today,” she wrote.