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Dick Van Dyke's 1st Wife & Mistress Died from Cancer a Year Apart Years after He Confessed His Infidelity

Oyin Balogun
May 24, 2022
05:00 A.M.
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Dick Van Dyke's life in the spotlight is characterized and defined by his long-spanning relationship with his first wife and an affair that shook their union. But his happy ending was with neither of them.


Hollywood classic star Dick Van Dyke has been around for the longest time, right from his humble beginnings, showbiz peak, and now, a life free of the hustle and bustle of the industry.

These days the "The Dick Van Dyke Show" star is pushing 100 and living out his old age with his wife, Arlene Silver. For the actor's love life, the third time's the charm, and Silver very much proves this.

Dick Van Dyke and Arlene Silver at the Princess Grace Awards Gala on October 8, 2014 in Beverly Hills. | Source: Getty Images


The couple is content with their relationship despite the significant age gap. Silver is 50, and Van Dyke is 96 years old. Once speaking about the 46-year age difference, the actor shared:

"We don't feel the age gap. I'm emotionally immature and Arlene is very wise for her age, so we meet in the middle."


It is safe to say Van Dyke got his happy ending with Silver, a celebrity makeup artist. The duo became man and wife when he was 86, and she was 46. However, long before fate brought them together, Van Dyke found love in two women who tragically passed on.


American actor, comedian and singer Dick Van Dyke dancing with his wife Margie at a Screen Producers' Guild party, USA, 1964. |Source: Getty Images


The romcom-like story of love for Van Dyke started in his teenage years. The entertainer fell in love and knew he wanted forever with his high school sweetheart, Margie Willet.

It was glaringly obvious that Willet loved Van Dyke, because she had dumped her then-boyfriend for him. In his memoir, "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business," Van Dyke recalled that Willet's ex-boyfriend was a scorned lover.

Dick Van Dyke with his wife Margie Willett on April 15, 1964 | Source: Getty Images


He shared that the young man had been in the school's wrestling and football team and that his physique was quite menacing. After Van Dyke and Willet became an item, the school athlete was furious and threatened to beat Van Dyke.

According to the "Mary Poppins Returns" star, Willet's ex never caught him, and they continued their love story. The couple did not have much, but they took the next big step in their lives.

Dick Van Dyke on July 11, 1955 on "The Morning Show" | Source: Getty Images


Van Dyke did not have the money for his wedding or even a honeymoon, but he was able to secure a nice deal after agreeing to wed on a radio show. The host had paid for their honeymoon expenses as they got married before 5 million listeners.

By the time Van Dyke started making a name for himself as an entertainer, it was evident that Willet was not about that life. In an interview with Guardian, the award-winning actor described his wife as "earthy and artistic" without a flair for the spotlight.

Dick Van Dyke on October 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images


He noted how Willet was sidelined by those who wanted his attention in the industry because she could not seem to get the striking looks right. Willet did not have an easy marriage, and motherhood also proved stressful.

She miscarried twins but later welcomed four children with Van Dyke. As time went on, the couple had friction in their marriage, within which Willet wanted her spouse to quit his Hollywood career, but he opposed it.


Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Triola attend the 39th Annual Tony Awards at the Shubert Theater in New York City on June 2, 1985. | Source : Getty Images


Van Dyke and Willet's marital woes intensified so much that the duo battled addiction issues. Van Dyke wrote in his memoir that he checked himself into a facility to curb his alcohol addiction.

After spending weeks there, Willet pulled up to pick him up during discharge, but after she arrived, the therapist informed Van Dyke that his wife was the next patient occupying his room.

Michelle Triola and Dick Van Dyke in Los Angeles, California in 2007 | Source: Getty Images


While he battled alcohol, she battled Librium, a medication for anxiety that she got hooked on. Van Dyke ended up gravitating towards his agent's secretary, Michelle Triola.

He would often talk about his problems with her, and soon enough, they started an affair. By 1976, Van Dyke was riddled with guilt, and he decided to come clean about his affair.

Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Triola attend Tiffany's Cocktail Party at Tiffany's in New York City on May 3, 1990. | Source: Getty Images


He and Willet were involved in heat he described as "many emotional but productive talks," but in the end, they agreed to go their separate ways. Their 36-year marriage was dissolved in 1984.


American actor Dick Van Dyke pictured with his wife Margie Willett in London in 1964. | Source: Getty Images


Many years after their divorce, Willet learned that she had pancreatic cancer. Although she and Van Dyke were long separated, he was still affected. He stated about her death:

"I was deeply affected. Even though we were long divorced, with her death I lost a part of myself."

Things only got worse. Van Dyke remained in good health, but one other person in his life was not so fortunate. Around the time Willet got her diagnosis, Triola was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Michelle Triola and Dick Van Dyke during 1st Softball Game to Benefit Neighborhood Youth at Pepperdine University at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California | Source: Getty Images


One year after Willet's death, she battled the illness, and Van Dyke was by her side throughout. He recalled being torn apart and unable to face the sad truth when Triola asked him if she would die.

Van Dyke tried encouraging her and letting her know she would survive. She got better for a bit, but the cancer returned with force, and she passed on after a while at a hospice.


Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Triola attend Young Musicians Dinner Benefit in Beverly Hills, California on November 2, 1990 | Source: Getty Images


Van Dyke and Triola were together for 36 years, and it was after her death he started his memoir. He referred to her as his muse, noting that her hearty laughter got him going.

The two never had kids together, nor did they get married, but the thoughts were not far from them. The two were in love, and the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" actor shared that, unlike his late ex-wife, Triola was vast in the ways of Hollywood. Van Dyke stated why he and Triola never walked down the aisle:

"We talked about marrying, but I could never get her to put a date in the diary."

Actor Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Triola arrive at the Geffen Playhouse's annual Backstage at the Geffen Gala on March 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images


Van Dyke is content with his four children from his first marriage, and today, he is a grandfather and a great-grandfather. The star noted that he mainly tried to be a great role model for his now-grown kids.

Alongside his patriarch role, Van Dyke keeps enjoying marital life with Silver. Although his oldest son was at first skeptical about their relationship, Silver and Van Dyke have proved that their union is ideal.


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