Dennis Weaver's 61-Year-Long Marriage: A Glimpse Into the 'Gunsmoke' Actor Private Life

Dennis Weaver wasn't just the lead in the television series McCloud or Chester on the 20th century's longest-running primetime series, "Gunsmoke." He was also a devoted family man.

The actor won an Emmy, co-founded the charity LIFE (Love is Feeding Everyone), and served as the spokesman for Great Western Bank, replacing John Wayne after his death.

Weaver starred in Steven Spielberg's first film, teamed with Orson Welles, and co-hosted Farm Aid IV with Willie Nelson!

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Weaver also had a marriage that lasted over half a century and deep convictions on what is meaningful in life. Please keep reading to find out his secrets to a life well-lived.

BEYOND THE CAMERA

Behind the scenes, he introduced the parents of Ron and Clint Howard. Ron Howard played Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show" and later made great films like Apollo 13.

Weaver coached his son's little league team and, before finding fame, earned money delivering flowers to people like Lucille Ball, Jack Webb, and John Ford.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

His 2001 autobiography, All the World's a Stage, revealed a spiritual person as Weaver explored environmental concerns, events that could have led to his death, and what he treasured most - his six-decade-long marriage to his wife, Gerry,

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

THE MEET-CUTE

Dennis and Weaver met at a Joplin Junior College sock-hop in 1942. She was a figure roller-skater and wore one of her skating outfits to the dance.

When the pair danced their way into each other's direct line of sight, Dennis gave "a powerful whirl" that kicked up her skirt, revealing a pair of legs that took Weaver's breath away. Gushing about it in his book, Weaver wrote:

"That was the beginning of a grand partnership that has lasted more than fifty years. She has truly blessed and enriched my life." 

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Three years of dating followed before they got engaged and married, all on the same day! Weaver proposed to Dennis at a football game, and the lovebirds drove through to the justice of the peace in Columbus that evening.

In 1948 they welcomed their first son, Rick, who became an actor, producer, and director. Their second son, Rob, came in 1953, followed by Rusty in 1959.

Rob and Rusty also pursued careers in entertainment. In his book, Weaver revealed the "secrets" of a longlasting marriage and wrote:

"When we truly love someone, we allow them their thoughts, interests, and space. We give each other room to breathe."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

GERRY WEAVER

Geraldine Stowell Weaver joined her husband in the entertainment business as an actress and is known for "Gentle Ben," "The Mike Douglas Show," and "This Is Your Life." 

Dennis Weaver often referred to himself as "Mr. Gerry Weaver," saying that Gerry was the Weaver family's real star and the driving force behind his success.

Dennis Weaver and wife Gerry attend a surprise 70th birthday party for television talk show host Larry King  | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine

Dennis Weaver and wife Gerry attend a surprise 70th birthday party for television talk show host Larry King | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine

Dennis Weaver and wife Gerry attend a surprise 70th birthday party for television talk show host Larry King | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine

DENNIS WEAVER

While studying at The Actors Studio, Weaver supported his family with odd jobs, including selling vacuum cleaners, tricycles, women's hosiery, and delivering flowers.

During his time as a student, he met Shelley Winters, and in 1952, she helped him get a contract from Universal Studios.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Weaver made his film debut that year in the movie The Redhead from Wyoming. Over the next three years, he appeared in several films.

While delivering flowers, he found out he had landed the role of the limping, loyal assistant of Marshal Matt Dillon, Chester Goode, on the television series "Gunsmoke."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Having earned praise as Chester, Weaver was cast in the 1958 Orson Welles film "Touch of Evil," in which he played an eccentric, face-twisting, body-contorting employee of a remote motel.

In 1960, he appeared in an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents;" from 1964 to 1965, he portrayed a friendly vet in NBC's comedy-drama "Kentucky Jones."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

He also had a significant role in the 1966 western "Duel at Diablo," with James Garner and Sidney Poitier, and as Tom Wedloe on the CBS family series "Gentle Ben."

In 1970 Weaver got the title role on NBC's "McCloud." He received two Emmy Award nominations for his portrayal and was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Also, he was praised for being an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series. During the series, Weaver appeared in Steven Spielberg's film, "Duel."

Spielberg chose Weaver based on the intensity of his performance in "Touch of Evil." This all testifies just how great of an actor he was.

Weaver also featured acclaimed television films. In 1977 he appeared in the made-for-TV movie "Intimate Strangers," portraying an abusive husband. It was one of the first network features to depict domestic violence.

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Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

A movie with Kurt Russell followed in 1980 wherein portrayed Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned for involvement in the Lincoln assassination in "The Ordeal Of Dr. Mudd."

Weaver and his real-life son Robby starred in the short-lived NBC police series "Stone." He received rave reviews when he starred in the 1987 film "Bluffing It," in which he played an illiterate man.

In February 2002, he was on the animated series "The Simpsons" (The Lastest Gun in the West) as the voice of aging Hollywood cowboy legend Buck McCoy.

On the set of Duel. Image Credit: Getty Images

On the set of Duel. Image Credit: Getty Images

On the set of Duel. Image Credit: Getty Images

For his contributions to the entertainment industry, Weaver received stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Dodge City Trail of Fame.

In 1981, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers with the Bronze Wrangler Award at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

His last role came with ABC Family's show called Wildfire, where he played Henry Ritter, the father of Jean Ritter and the co-owner of Raintree Ranch.

His role on the show ended with his death on February 24, 2006. This was a true loss to the acting world as he was a one of a kind star.

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Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

ACTIVISM

Weaver was passionate about and dedicated to protecting the environment. He promoted the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen and wind power.

It led the actor to establish The Institute of Ecolonomics, a non-profit environmental organization in 1993 in Berthoud, Colorado. "Ecolonomics" combines the words ecology and economics.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

He was also involved with John Denver's WindStar Foundation, and he co-founded the organization called LIFE with Valerie Harper.

For 16 years, the organization provided food for 150,000 needy people a week in Los Angeles. So not only did he achieve on-screen but off-screen as well!

Valerie Harper and Dennis Weaver at LIFE event. Image Credit: Getty Images

Valerie Harper and Dennis Weaver at LIFE event. Image Credit: Getty Images

Valerie Harper and Dennis Weaver at LIFE event. Image Credit: Getty Images

In 2004, he led a convoy of alternative fuel vehicles across the United States to raise awareness about America's oil dependence.

The actor was also involved with the annual Genesis Awards, which honor those in the news and entertainment business who bring attention to animals' plight and suffering.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

His most visible project was probably the home, Earthship, that he and his wife built in Ridgway, Colorado, and where they had lived for many years.

The 8,500-square-foot home featured walls built of tires packed with earth and cans and then covered with adobe and used an array of active and passive solar technology, water recovery, and other recycling techniques.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Weaver died due to complications from cancer on February 24, 2006. After Dennis passed away, Gerry carried on his legacy, working hard to protect his dreams for their home and land.

Gerry's death came on April 26, 2016. Both passed away at their home, surrounded by loved ones. What do you think about this phenomenal actor and all he has done? Leave your comments below, and stay tuned for more celeb news!

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