Michael Landon may have passed away over 30 years ago, but his legacy certainly lives on, thanks to his acting roles in classic TV series like ‘Bonanza‘, ‘Little House on the Prairie‘, and ‘Highway to Heaven’.
Though many of us would remember him as a familiar face on our screens, he was also a doting husband and loving father whose ultimate goal was to ensure he bonded with his children.
Perhaps his desire to be the best parent to his kids stemmed from the fact Landon’s own childhood was tumultuous – his mother struggled immensely with her mental health. Landon even saved her life after she attempted suicide on several different occasions.
While Landon was a talented athlete, an injury during his college years meant he was unable to continue his passions. So, the youngster moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in showbiz. Throughout his lengthy career in TV, he graced the cover of TV Guide a whopping 22 times – an impressive feat he shares with Lucile Ball.
Landon was married three times and was a father to nine children. He had two sons, Mark and John, through adoption with his first wife Dodie Levy-Fraser. With his second wife, Lynn Noe, Landon became a father to four children – Leslie, Michael Jr., Christopher, and Shawna. He also adopted Noe’s daughter, Cheryl, who was born from a previous relationship.
His second marriage fell apart and he eventually married for a third and final time to Cindy Clerico. At the time, this caused some scandal as she was 20 years his junior, and because many people accused Landon of being unfaithful to his second wife with Clerico.
Landon staunchly denied this, telling People in 1985: “You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married.”
Although he was already a father to seven, Landon welcomed two more children through his third marriage, Jennifer and Matthew. And while he had many youngsters to keep up with, his daughter Jennifer told Closer Weekly in 2019 that he was “a fantastic father who was curious about everything and loved to teach the children.”
Sadly, Landon passed away in 1991 aged just 54 – less than three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, he was loved until the very end – with all of his children rallying around him during his final moments.
The following year his son, director Christopher Landon, told People about his father’s final days. He sadly recounted how his father became like a “son”, while Christopher took on the role of “the father”.
In recent years, the ‘Happy Death Day’ director has often posted tributes to his late father on social media.
However, Christopher has not always had it so easy, revealing to his fans on social media in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. Posting an image of himself in a hospital bed to Instagram, he wrote in the caption: “Whelp….where to start. About a week ago I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was rushed into emergency surgery to have part of my kidney removed…”
His illness was, fortunately, in its early stages and doctors were able to perform emergency surgery to remove parts of the kidneys.
However, Christopher encouraged everyone to get tested and stay on top of their health before it was too late.
How lovely to see that Michael Landon’s family is carrying on his legacy… It’s heartwarming to see!
If you enjoyed reading this story, you may be interested in Melissa Gilbert’s emotional tribute to Michael Landon on the 31st anniversary of his death.