Sitcom star Mary Tyler Moore was an entertainer for more than five decades but a devastating tragedy in her personal life shifted her world. The Emmy winner’s only child, Richie Meeker, died in 1980 at the age of 24. In the years that followed her son’s death, Moore revealed how she managed her grief through the difficult time. Scroll below for more details on the late star’s family. 

Who Was Mary Tyler Moore’s Only Child, Richie Meeker?

Moore welcomed her only child, Richard Carleton “Richie” Meeker Jr., on July 3, 1956, with her first husband, Richard Meeker. Their marriage lasted from 1955 to 1962. The Mary Tyler Moore Show star was 18 years old at the time of their union and got pregnant six weeks after their nuptials. 

After her marriage to Richie’s father came to an end, Moore married her second husband, Grant Tinker, in 1962. Richie later attended the University of Southern California and lived in a home with multiple roommates near the campus. At the time, he was working in the mail room at CBS studios and was also an avid gun collector. 

Mary Tyler Moore Son Richie Meeker: Cause of Death, Details

How Did Mary Tyler Moore’s Son Richie Meeker Die?

Richie died on October 14, 1980, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while handling his shotgun at home. 

“He was loading and unloading the short-barreled gun when it went off,” his roommate Judy Vasquez said of the tragedy, per The Washington Post. “It was awful. He must have pulled the trigger. There was a big bang and he fell on the bed.”

The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office later ruled Richie’s death an accident. 

Did Mary Tyler Moore Speak Out After Her Son’s Death?  

Years after losing her only child, Moore recalled the harrowing day when she got the news that Richie was gone.  

“The phone awakened me. It was Grant,” she remembered in her 1995 memoir, After All. “‘If you’re standing, you should sit down … It’s Richie. He’s dead.’” 

The Ordinary People actress spread her son’s ashes in the Owens River in California.  

“The water was clear and high as I knelt over it. I opened the container and emptied it into the rushing water,” Moore penned. “What was meant to be a prayer became an outraged demand. ‘You take care of him,’ I screamed at the sky.”

Moore died on January 25, 2017, at age 80 from complications of cardiopulmonary arrest and pneumonia. She is survived by her third husband, Dr. Robert Levine, whom she married in 1983.