This summer, after four months of text messages back and forth, Patrick Duffy packed up his car and drove 20 hours to Colorado to see actress Linda Purl in person. “I actually asked her permission to give her a kiss because I had never even put my arm around her,” Patrick confides in the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now. “We haven’t been apart since.”
The Dallas actor, who lost Carlyn Rosser, his wife of 43 years, in 2017, never expected to fall in love again. “I never looked for another relationship. I was content to be a good father and grandfather,” Patrick, 71, says. “That’s how I thought I would live out my life, but my heart took a different turn and I had to follow it.”
Earlier this year, Patrick and Linda, 65, who knew each other in passing, both became part of a group chat put together by some mutual acquaintances. “Because of our friends, we were able to text and update each other,” explains Patrick, who adds that eventually other people dropped out of the conversation until it was just he and Linda.
Separated by distance but united in spirit, the Step by Step actor and Linda — a veteran actress who has been a regular on Matlock and Happy Days — got to know each other on a very meaningful level. “Without having dinner or going out for drinks, or all of the distractions of a regular relationship, all we could do was talk about ourselves. At the end of that time, we had a profound understanding of who each other was,” Patrick gushes, noting he felt attracted to Linda’s “history, her physical beauty, her heart and compassion.”
This unexpected joy would not have occurred if Patrick hadn’t listened to his heart. “Your head will tell you things that are logical, but my advice to anyone is to ask what you are feeling,” he insists. “Do you look forward to being around this person ever chance you can? Do they make you feel giddy? Just listen to what your heart tells you and do it.”
Patrick admits that this advice is doubly important for seniors like himself. “At this point in our lives, why not try to take in every sight?” he questions. “Any time your heart says this looks fun, just do it! If not now, when? Just follow your heart.”
Patrick’s buoyant spirit and faith have gotten him through some difficult times before. In 1986, his parents, Marie and Terrence Duffy, were senselessly gunned down in the bar they owned in Montana. Patrick’s faith helped him reconcile their deaths and keep them close in his heart. “I am still connected to my parents. I am still connected [to my wife’s] entity,” says Patrick, a practicing Buddhist since the 1970s.
He feels that Carlyn, who introduced him to the religion, would approve of the new love in his life. “I look at my relationship with Linda as being blessed by my wife — as almost being orchestrated by her — because of our dedication to each other’s happiness while we were together.”
Patrick admits he is as surprised as anyone that this has become such a happy time in his life. In addition to his new love, his career is again on the upswing. “I tend to be Mr. Christmas, which I enjoy,” says the actor, who will star in People Presents: Once Upon a Main Street on Lifetime. “I play a widower who has an estranged daughter who is clearly not feeling the Christmas spirit. It’s about what Christmas is really about: bringing people together.”
Since falling head over heels, Patrick and Linda have made all sorts of plans. “We would both love to work together. It’s something we look forward to doing,” he dishes to Closer. And spending the holiday season together is a given. “She is now an integral part of the Duffy family,” Patrick says.
Marriage, however, is unlikely. “I learned to never say never after I said I would never return to Dallas and I had to eat those words,” Patrick shares with a laugh. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I am content. We are confident in each other’s emotional commitment to each other and that to me is the definition of marriage. Life is good, really good.”