Mary Tyler Moore Played a Mother Whose Son Died Accidently Right Before Her Own Son’s Accidental Death

Mary Tyler Moore is an actor and producer who broke boundaries for women in the entertainment industry. Moore appeared in such high-profile television shows as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, creating characters that became fan-favorites, and live on in pop culture to this day. Moore died in 2017, but she remains a beloved figure in pop culture — and every day, fans are learning more and more about what made Moore the woman that she was, including the personal tragedies that helped to define her life. 

Mary Tyler Moore leaning on her hand, looking down, in black and white
Mary Tyler Moore | George Rose/Getty Images

How did Mary Tyler Moore become famous?

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Mary Tyler Moore was born in New York City in 1936. According to Biography, Moore’s acting career began when she was a teenager. She acted in a series of television commercials and modeled for a series of projects, even appearing on a number of album covers. The actor tried out for the role of Danny Thomas’s daughter for the TV series The Danny Thomas Show but narrowly missed landing the role. 

In 1961, after working for a decade in the entertainment business, Moore finally landed her big break when she was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show. As Laura Petrie, the wife of Dick Van Dyke’s character, Moore became extremely popular, and her fashion choices became a hot topic with fans all around the world. 

What is Mary Tyler Moore best known for?

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Mary Tyler Moore continued to act on The Dick Van Dyke Show until 1966 when the series went off the air. In 1970, Moore pitched an exciting new idea to network executives, for a TV show that would feature her in a leading role as a progressive working woman, changing up the way that many viewers looked at women in sitcoms. The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted on television in 1970 and became an immediate success.

Moore’s show ran for seven years. During the entire series run, Moore continued to act in a wide variety of other projects, becoming a mainstay in the entertainment scene. She also used her platform to advocate for causes that she believed in, including diabetes prevention and animal rights. Through it all, Moore grappled with some tough personal issues. 

One of Mary Tyler Moore’s roles mirrored a real-life personal tragedy

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Mary Tyler Moore got married a total of three times in her life, with her first marriage occurring when she was just a teen. While the union, of Moore to a man named Richard Carleton Meeker, didn’t last, it did produce a son named Richard Meeker Jr. The young man was Moore’s only child. Sadly, Moore’s son died in 1980, when he only 24 years old, after accidentally shooting himself with a gun from his own personal collection.

Ironically, at the time of her son’s accidental death, Moore had just appeared in a movie called Ordinary People, playing a mother who had lost a son to an accident, according to the Huffington Post. Moore was devastated, but her work in the film was later honored with an Academy Award nomination. While Moore’s grief undoubtedly haunted her throughout the remainder of her life, she was able to focus her energy on a series of worthy causes, determined to do good in the world however she could. Moore died in 2017, having achieved icon status. To this day, she remains an inspiration for women everywhere.