Jim Nabors, who portrayed “Gomer Pyle” in The Andy Griffith Show, has died at the age of 87. His personal assistant confirmed the news to USA Today, saying that he died November 30 at his home in Hawaii.
Throughout his long career in the entertainment industry, Nabors appeared in various TV shows and movies and recorded dozens of albums. He’s best known as Gomer, a Marine in the CBS comedy which ran for five seasons during the 1960s.
Nabors was gay and married his longtime partner Stan Cadwallader in 2013.
Here’s what you need to know about the couple:
1. Nabors Met Cadwallader in Hawaii, Where He Worked as a Firefighter
Nabors said that he met Cadwallader in 1975. Cadwallader worked for years as a firefighter in Honolulu. Eventually, he started working with Nabors as a business associate, and they entered a romantic relationship, though it was largely kept from the public eye. Nabors said he was always open about his sexuality, even when he worked full-time in Hollywood during the 1960s and 1970s, but never acknowledged it to the media until recent years.
“I haven’t ever made a public spectacle of it,” Nabors said to Hawaii News Now. “Well, I’ve known since I was a child, so, come on. It’s not that kind of a thing. I’ve never made a huge secret of it at all.”
2. Nabors & Cadwallader Got Married in 2013 in Seattle
In his later years, Nabors lived in Hawaii with Cadwallader. They had been dating for 38 years and were best friends. When gay marriage was legalized, the couple jumped at the chance to make their partnership official.
Nabors and Cadwallader traveled to Washington, where gay marriage became legal in December 2012, and got married at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Hawaii News Now reported. The wedding took place in 2013, and they remained married ever since.
“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told the publication. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”
The couple got married in a ceremony that took place in their hotel room with only a couple of friends. Nabors said their marriage was “no big deal.”
“My friend and I, my partner, we went through all of this 38 years ago,” Nabors said. “So I mean, we made our vows and that was it. It was to each other, but nevertheless, we were a couple.”
3. Nabors’ Health Had Been Declining & He Died Next to Cadwallader
Nabors, who grew up in Alabama, sang the unofficial Indiana anthem nearly every year at the start of the Indianapolis 500. That was from 1972 until 2014, when health issues he was suffering from limited his ability to travel, he said.
In 1994, Nabors underwent a liver transplant after he contracted hepatitis B. In May 2012, he underwent successful open-heart surgery. But his health had been declining for much of the past year, Cadwallader told The Washington Post. Cadwallader said that he was at his side in their home where Nabors died “peacefully.”
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man and that’s all we can say about him,” Cadwallader told The Post. “He’s going to be dearly missed.”
4. Nabors Said He Was ‘Very Happy’ to Be Married to His Best Friend
Prior to gay marriage being legalized nationally, Nabors said that he didn’t intend to get involved in the debate. He said that he was “very happy” to be married to his best friend and didn’t want to start a debate.
“I’m not a debater,” Nabors said to Hawaii News Now. “And everybody has their own opinion about this and actually I’m not an activist so I’ve never gotten involved in any of this.”
Nabors once recorded a radio advertisement for former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano’s campaign to be the mayor of Honolulu. He said that he recorded the spot because he was a close friend of Cayetano and his wife, Vicky.
For years, there had been rumors that Nabors was married to Rock Hudson, shortly before he started dating Cadwallader. However, gay marriage wasn’t legal at the time, and both said they were never more than friends. The rumor led to the two never speaking again, though.
5. Nabors Moved to Hawaii in 1976 & Owned a Macadamia Nut Farm
Nabors and Cadwallader’s relationship may not have been possible had he not moved to Hawaii. He said that he started vacationing in Hawaii during the 1960s and decided to make the permanent move from Bel Air, California in 1976. He owned a macadamia nut plantation in Maui before he sold it to a conservationist organization and retained the farming rights to the land.
“I just walked off that plane and knew this is where I wanted to be,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now. “It was the air and the friendship and the friendliness and the people, you know. I just knew, there’s something inside me that told me ‘Hey, you’re gonna end up here,’ I love this place. I love everything about it.”