Legendary entertainer Bruce Forsyth is survived by his third wife Wilnelia Merced, a former Miss World and Puerto Rico native. The couple met in 1980, five years after Merced had been awarded the crown of Miss World. Forsyth had been asked to be a judge, along with Merced, at the 1980 incarnation of the competition. Three years later, the couple married and later had a son, JJ.
It marked the third time that Forsyth had walked down the aisle. In 1953, Forsyth married Penny Calvert and had three daughters before divorcing in 1973. After that, Forsyth married Anthea Redfearn in 1973 and had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1979.
On August 18, it was announced that Forsyth had passed away at his home at the age of 89. His health had been poor since October 2015 when he suffered a fall at his home. Earlier in August, comedian Jimmy Tarbuck had said that it was unlikely that Forsyth would perform publicly again.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Forsyth Said About Merced in 2013, ‘I Have to Pinch Myself We Are Together’
In January 2013, Forsyth told the Daily Mirror in a gushing interview that he had “pinch himself” because he couldn’t believe he was with Merced. The TV legend said:
Even now, I can’t believe it. I look at her from across the table if we’re eating, or in a room, or with other people, and in a crowd, and I just stare at her. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to think that we are together, and still together.
Forsyth went on to discuss how nobody gave the couple a chance when they first together, due largely to the age difference, he was 53 while she was 23 when they got hitched. He then gave his secret to a successful marriage, “The secret to a happy marriage is if you can be at peace with someone within four walls, if you are content because the one you love is near to you, either upstairs or downstairs, or in the same room, and you feel that warmth that you don’t find very often, then that is what love is all about.”
Merced was similarly gushing about Forsyth in a March 2016 interview with You magazine, “He’s the man I fell in love with because his brain is still there. He has a bit of a problem moving but we still laugh and talk. I pray, I believe. The main thing is that he’s doing well. The pain is more emotional; sometimes we cry, but mostly we laugh.”
2. Merced Runs a Foundation in Puerto Rico That Helps Underprivileged Children
Since winning the crown of of Miss World in 1975, an event that was described by the BBC at the time as “the biggest non-event of the year,” Merced has worked mainly in charitable organizations for underprivileged children.
Merced told the Daily Mirror in 2013 that her favorite place in the world Puerto Rico. For yeares the couple divided their time between their home along Dorado Beach. While Forsyth also said the Caribbean island was also his favorite place. Forsyth talked during his appearance on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs about his first visit to the island saying, “With her being an ex Miss World, the lovely thing about me going there is that I’m Mr Nobody, so when we got married, I wasn’t Bruce Forsyth, the British entertainer and millionaire, I was Signor Mundo, Mr World.”
In a November 2016 interview with the Daily Mail, Merced is described as Puerto Rico’s “unofficial first lady.” That’s in addition to actually being a Lady of the realm after Forsyth’s knighthood in 2011. Just prior to the feature, Merced had been in Puerto Rico to collect an award thanks to her charity work. The piece goes on to describe Merced as a “latter-day Princess Diana.”
3. The First Signs of Forsyth’s Ailing Health Came in 2016 When He Was Too Frail to Attend Merced’s Birthday Party
In June 2016, it was widely reported that Forsyth had been in too frail a condition to attend his wife’s birthday party. Forsyth’s manager, Ian Wilson, told ITV News at the time, “If he were well enough to go or medically advised, he would be there, but we’re not at that point. He’s not going to do something that would endanger recuperation.He’s not going to do something that would endanger recuperation.
A few months later, Mercad spoke about Forsyth’s health “Bruce will decide when he wants to retire, but I would say that he would never throw in the towel and will always like to have the prospect of doing something on stage or screen as long as he lives. He is a born entertainer and always will be. He has taken much longer than we hoped to recover from the operation and he just takes everything a day at a time. He is not in shape to host a TV show, but reports suggesting he has retired are wide of the mark. Bruce will decide when he wants to retire, but I would say that he would never throw in the towel and will always like to have the prospect of doing something on stage or screen as long as he lives. He is a born entertainer and always will be.”
4. Forsyth Said the Sexiest Thing Merced Could Wear Is a French Maid’s Uniform
During his January 2017 Daily Mirror interview, the couple played a version of the Newlyweds game. They were was asked, “What sexy uniform would Brucie like to see you dressed up in?” To which, Merced responded, “Something short, sexy… a French outfit, a maid?” Forsyth agreed saying, “It has to be a French maid uniform. A traditional choice that ages me, but when you’re 84, you don’t mind being aged a bit.”
5. Their Son, JJ Forsyth, Is the Bass Player in a Heavy Metal Band Known as JunkCake
The couple’s only son, JJ, born in 1986, is the bass player in London-based heavy metal band JunkCake. JJ told the Huffington Post after Forsyth had attended a JunkCake gig in Camden Town that, “Dad’s heard a bit of our music. He knows what we’re up to. It’s not the sort of stuff he’s used to but he supports us in everything we do, he’s great like that.”