What Happened To ‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon’s Sister?

NCIS star Mark Harmon was not the only successful actor to come out of his family. Long before Mark made a name for himself on CBS’ hit crime drama, his sister, Kristin Harmon, skyrocketed to fame starring on the 1950s sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Kristin tragically passed away in April of 2018 – but whatever happened to her following the end of the hit TV show?

Ricky Nelson and Kristin Harmon
Ricky Nelson and Kristin Harmon | Photo by
Ron Galella / Contributor /Getty Images

Kristin Harmon’s rise to fame

Kristin’s rise to fame began when she was just 12 years old. At the time, Kristin was first introduced to Ricky Nelson, whose parents starred in the hit 1950s sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Kristin immediately fell for Nelson and enjoyed spending time with his family. After years of dating, the two exchanged vows as soon as she turned 18 years old.

Once she was officially part of the family, Kristin started appearing on The Adventures of Ozzie Harriet as the family’s daughter-in-law. She had her first child with Nelson six month after their wedding. Their first daughter, Tracy, went on to appear as a child star in Yours, Mine, and Ours as well as The Father Dowling Mysteries. The couple would go on to welcome twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, who started a rock band called Nelson. The pair had their fourth child, Sam, in the 1970s.

Inside Kristin Harmon’s battle with drugs

While Kristin’s marriage seemed perfect on the outside, it was not long before she and Nelson got in serious trouble. With Nelson an active rock star, the couple got deep into partying. Before they knew it, they were both heavily involved in drugs. According to People, Kristin and Nelson tried rehab and therapy to get over their drug addiction, but when that failed, their marriage quickly fell apart.

“I got into therapy and so did he for a while but then he started not showing up. I tried telling my family, there’s a drug problem here and we’ve all got to help. But they totally denied there was anything wrong,” Kristen shared.

Kristin turned in divorce papers in 1980. She engaged in a bitter custody battle with Nelson in the ensuing years, though the courts granted her temporary custody of their children. Both sides accused each other of drug abuse and bad parenting in the years following their divorce.

Kristen would later admit that she was still using drugs in the early ’80s and was also drinking very heavily. Things got so bad that Kristin could no longer perform her duties as a painter and turned to her brother for help.

Mark Harmon and Kristin Harmon fight over custody

Mark was more than willing to help out his sister in her time of need. At some point, Kristin moved in with Mark and Pam Dawber, whom he would later marry. Things took a tragic turn in 1985 when Nelson died in a plane crash. Members of Nelson’s band also perished in the crash, along with his fiancée, Helen Blair. When Kristin’s behavior did not improve, Mark convinced her to give rehab another try.

Eventually, Mark took things into his own hands and pushed to win custody of Kristin’s 12-year-old son, Sam. In 1987, Kristin and Mark fought in court and the future NCIS star was given temporary custody.

After months of fighting, both sides agreed to give Kristin full custody, though Mark was allowed visitation rights. The family also agreed to participate in therapy sessions together.

Kristin Harmon’s final days

As Sam got older, he and Kristin remained close. In an interview in 2016, Sam revealed that his mother was now living in New Mexico and that he spoke to her on a regular basis. Sam got a degree from Boston College and later started a band called H Is Orange. His mom tragically passed away in April of 2018 from a heart attack. She was 72 years old at the time of her death and had remained out of the public eye for years.

It is unclear if Mark and Kristin Harmon were close during her final years. Given the turbulent nature of her life, Mark Harmon never talked much about his older sister. The NCIS star married Dawber, who is well known for Mork & Mindy, in 1987. The couple has two children together.