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Donna Reed Got Daily Marriage Proposals from Colonel for Years after Feeling 'Terrible Being Married'

Esther NJeri
Aug 23, 2022
01:25 P.M.
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"Convicted Woman" actress Donna Reed remained married for years for the sake of her kids, even though she would later admit that the union had been terrible. Shortly after her divorce, she met "The Colonel," who proposed to her daily. They were together until she took her last breath.

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Donna Reed was a '50s household sensation with a career spanning over four decades. She rose to fame after appearing in the 1946 Christmas fantasy "It's a Wonderful Life" as the protagonist George Bailey's sweetheart and later wife.

She gained indelible fame in later roles, starring in "The Donna Reed Show," which starred her as a middle-class wife to a pediatrician husband, Dr. Alex Stone, and a mother of two.

Actress Donna Reed poses at the Academy Award in Los Angeles, California, on March 25, 1954 | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed poses at the Academy Award in Los Angeles, California, on March 25, 1954 | Source: Getty Images

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Like her TV role, her marriage in real life was idealized. Her husband, William Tuttle, was the first ever makeup artist to receive an Oscar. Unfortunately, their union was short-lived, and the two called things off in 1945, after being married for two years.

Soon after, Reed found love again with Tony Owen, a producer. They married in June 1945 and quickly became parents to their four children, Mary Anne, Tony Jr., Timothy, and Penny.

Actress Donna Reed poses with her husband Tony Owen during the Academy Award in Los Angeles, California, on March 25, 1954, | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed poses with her husband Tony Owen during the Academy Award in Los Angeles, California, on March 25, 1954, | Source: Getty Images

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Even with a successful career in Hollywood, Reed prioritized her family and would not let acting jobs prevent her from spending time with her family. Her son Tony remembers how Reed would make time for her family. He told The Daily Nonpareil, as Closer Weekly reports:

"I saw my parents every day, and we ate dinner at night around the table. To me, Mom was Donna Owen, schlepping the kids around."

Despite her and her husband being big stars, she strived to give her children a normal upbringing and often shielded them from the spotlight. Besides raising a family with Reed, Owen was also a producer on "The Donna Reed Show."

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DONNA STAYED MARRIED FOR HER KIDS

Actress Donna Reed with husband Tony Owens attend a premiere with their kids Timmy, 5, Tony Jr., 7, and Penny, 8, in Los Angeles, California, on December 18, 1954, | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed with husband Tony Owens attend a premiere with their kids Timmy, 5, Tony Jr., 7, and Penny, 8, in Los Angeles, California, on December 18, 1954, | Source: Getty Images

From the outside, Reed and Owen's marriage was picture perfect. He'd produced the famed show that gained her indelible fame and given her four children she adored.

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However, Donna would later disclose that the marriage had always been terrible. "Nothing new really happened. He didn't change, and neither did I. It was always a difficult marriage. We were so different in temperament." She confessed.

They had worked well as a team, but things were beginning to get ugly. Reed, however, chose to remain in the marriage for the sake of her little children. "I know it's terribly old-fashioned, but I stuck it out for the children. I just couldn't bear the idea of small children having a stepfather." She added.

Actress Donna Reed with husband Tony Owens attend an event in Los Angeles, circa 1962 | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed with husband Tony Owens attend an event in Los Angeles, circa 1962 | Source: Getty Images

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After 25 years together, the marriage could no longer work. Their daughter Mary Anne says that because her father was much older than Reed, she'd had to work all those years since signing with MGM Studios at 21 and had finally reached the end of her rope.

Mary Anne disclosed that the TV show had been too rigorous for her parents, and they could no longer find common ground. Finally, they decided it was no longer worth it and ended the 25-year marriage. Reed mused:

"The situation was really worsening. You get to a point where you say to yourself, 'Is this how I'm going to spend the rest of my life?'"

Actress Donna Reed on the "Peacocks on the Roof" episode on "The Donna Reed Show" in 1965 | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed on the "Peacocks on the Roof" episode on "The Donna Reed Show" in 1965 | Source: Getty Images

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"The Whole Truth" actress disclosed that she had to choose between divorce, which she knew to be wrong, and an even worse marriage. They finally went separate ways in 1971, as Reed would say:

"Getting divorced was terrible. But it was also terrible being married."

THE THIRD TIME'S A CHARM: DONNA FOUND LOVE WITH A COLONEL

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on September 21, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on September 21, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

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Born in the North Bergen township in New Jersey in 1926, Grover Woodrow Asmus graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1946. He served in the army until 1972, finally attaining the title of Colonel.

Reed and Asmus met at a mutual friend's dinner party, and he was immediately smitten. It's unclear what happened during their first meeting, but the two lovebirds courted for three years, and the Colonel would propose to "The Love Boat" actress every day.

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on September 21, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on September 21, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

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And even though Reed would turn Asmus down every time, he never relented. Three years after their first meeting, Reed finally accepted his proposal admitting that Asmus had gotten to her. Author Jay Fultz wrote in his book, "In Search of Donna Reed" that Reed finally gave in to his advances, saying:

"You've worn me down. Yes. I still haven't found your dark side, but I think I can live with it when it does pop up."

The lovebirds married in 1974 and traveled the world together. Mary Anne says that while Reed and Owen had traveled, it was primarily for her movies and other work. In contrast, her travels with Asmus were fun, which was pretty exciting for the actress.

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Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on June 6, 1958. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on June 6, 1958. | Source: Getty Images

After her marriage to Asmus, Reed continued to appear in several TV shows, including her part as Sheila Callahan in the 1979 film "The Best Place To Be," a role she did after a 13-year hiatus in acting. She also played Miss Wade in the made-for-TV horror film "Deadly Lessons."

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Sadly, as 1985 closed off, Reed received the most devastating news. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an illness that claimed her life on January 14, 1986, only 13 days before she celebrated her 65th birthday.

The "They Were Expendable" actress and Asmus were together for 11 years before death cruelly took her away from him. Even so, he kept her memories alive by being part of her foundations.

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on June 2, 1961, | Source: Getty Images

Actress Donna Reed on the set of "The Donna Reed Show" on June 2, 1961, | Source: Getty Images

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Asmus, alongside other actors such as Shelley Fabares and Norma Connolly, as well as friends and family members, created The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts to honor her achievements. The foundation encourages talented people to pursue performing arts as a career in the future.

Bill Wright, the current Vice President of the foundation, who fondly referred to Asmus as "The Colonel," shared that Asmus "not only thought the world of Donna but also transcended that love to the Denison community."

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