She had moved on. Toni Tenille divorced her husband, Captain & Tennille bandmate Daryl Dragon, in 2014 and left their Prescott, Arizona home to live in Florida, where she spent two years writing her memoir. “But I kept thinking about Daryl,” the singer exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
“I still had his medical power of attorney, and when I finished the book, something said to me, ‘I need to go back to Prescott. I should be nearer to him,'” the 78-year-old admitted. After nearly four decades of marriage and a painful split, she realized he still had a place in her heart.
Until the end, Toni adored Daryl as much as America loved the Grammy-winning couple behind ’70s hits she penned like “The Way I Want to Touch You” and “Do That to Me One More Time.” “They were my love letters to him,” she said. Now Toni reveals her final words to Daryl, his secret health battles and childhood struggles and the love that kept them together until his January 2 death at age 76 from renal failure.
What motivated Toni to return to Daryl was the same thing that drove her to marry him in 1975. “I thought I could fix him and bring him into the sunlight, but no one could get through,” she said. She suspected — though never confirmed — that he was on the autism spectrum and later found out he had Parkinsonian symptoms, including tremors exacerbated by anxiety and PTSD after being beaten from age 4 by his famous dad, bandleader Carmen Dragon. Recalled Toni, “He told me his father said, ‘I don’t know what happens. I see red.'”
Toni couldn’t repair the damage from Daryl’s past, but when she returned to Prescott, she did what she could for his future. This included firing home health aides whom she said kept him drugged at night, finding him a new place to live with better care and visiting regularly.
In a way, she feels they were closer after the divorce. “My coauthor and I were promoting the book [Toni Tennille: A Memoir] on the Today show and he said, ‘I thought you were great — I’m very proud of you.’ Those were things he hardly ever said to me, but it was lovely to hear,” she remembered. “And just a few days ago, our bandmate Rusty Higgins sent the last email he had from Daryl right after our divorce that said, ‘Toni left me, as well she should have.’ It was heartbreaking — that’s when I found out he knew I had to leave because I was going down with him.”
But as she had many times before, Toni would be there with him again when it counted. Just as he was ready to be transferred to a hospice facility, “I was waiting in the room with him, he and I alone,” Toni shared. “I said, ‘I know you’re there, and want you to know that I loved you anyway.’ Then the paramedics came, and he passed away.”
Toni fulfilled Daryl’s final wishes — to have his ashes scattered around Granite Mountain in Prescott. “He was a brilliant man,” Toni concluded, “and I loved him with all my heart.”
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