Barbara Marshall was Garry Marshall’s wife for 53 years until his sudden death in 2016 from a stroke. In the new ABC special The Happy Days of Garry Marshall, she and their three children — Lori, Kathleen, and Scott — appear many times to talk about their father’s legacy.
Here’s what you need to know about their five-decade marriage.
1. They Had a Whirlwind Romance
In the ABC documentary, Barbara talks about her first date with Garry, when they met in Hollywood in 1963.
“Garry and I had our first date at a bar and he started being funny and telling a few jokes and entertaining me. And I remembered a joke I’d heard on The Jack Paar Show, so I thought I’d show him I could be funny too. So I started telling a joke and I couldn’t remember the ending and he picked it right up and finished it. And I said, ‘Oh, that’s great, you saw the same joke I saw on TV!’ and he said, ‘No, I wrote it.'”
That was in September and it was pretty much it for both of them. They were engaged three months later and married the following spring.
“She was the wind beneath his winds,” said Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg in the ABC special.
Richard Gere, who starred in several of Marshall’s movies, added, “I don’t think Garry would have survived without her. He made an incredible choice here to have someone in his life who allowed him to be a goofball.”
2. They Had Three Children Over the Next Six Years
Garry and Barbara started their family immediately after getting married. Oldest daughter Lorraine “Lori” Gay was born nine months later, in December 1964. In 1967, they welcomed daughter Kathleen, and in 1969, they had their son, Scott.
All three children followed in their father’s footsteps and went into show business. Lori previously worked in casting and also appears on screen in small parts in several of her father’s movies. Kathleen acted on stage in New York after graduating from her father’s alma mater, Northwestern University, and like her sister, appears in several of her father’s films. Scott has also done several of their dad’s movies, but he also directs, with several movies of his own to his credit.
Barbara also got in on the fun, appearing in small roles in Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, Raising Helen, Valentine’s Day, and several other Marshall movies.
Garry and Barbara also have five grandchildren — Lori’s daughters Charlotte and Lily, and Scott’s children Sam, Ethan, and Emma, according to his Northwestern University obituary.
3. Garry Drew on One of Barbara’s Real-Life Escapades for One of His Shows
There’s an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob (Dick Van Dyke) is working late and Laurie (Mary Tyler Moore) is nervous to be in the house alone, so she stacks a bunch of soup cans in front of the front door so that if an intruder comes in, she’ll be alerted. What ends up happening is that Rob trips the cans and scares Laurie (and himself) half to death. That bit came straight out of Garry and Barbara’s early years of marriage.
“In our first year of marriage, I was hired to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show … we would sit around literally telling [creator Carl Reiner] the most embarrassing moments in our entire life,” says Marshall.
“When we had our first baby … Garry started working very late and I had the baby and I needed a little something, so I devised my own burglar alarm system. I took soup cans and stacked them in front of the door and if anybody broke in, I would hear them fall,” explained Barbara, adding, “One night, Garry came home a little early and I had stacked them all up and Garry opened the door and they went everywhere and it scared him.”
And she said he put it straight into the show. “I said Garry, wait a minute! You’re using my material! I charged him $25,” said Barbara with a laugh.
4. Barbara and the Kids Were Garry’s Whole World
In the ABC special, many of Marshall’s collaborators and actors said Barbara and the kids were everything to him. He was 100 percent a family man before he was a show business personality.
“I feel like your personal life has to take precedence over your professional life for you to have success in both,” Marshall said in the special.
“Garry used to say life is more important than show business because family life was the most important thing to him,” recalled Barbara. “We didn’t move to Beverly Hills [when he became more famous]. We didn’t want to do the show biz thing that everybody was doing. And we still maintained our sense of family.”
Garry once said, “If you can get out of bed each day and go to a job you love and return home to a family you love, that is the key to life.”
5. His Passing Was Incredibly Hard on Barbara
Marshall was a known hypochondriac, which Barbara says in the special made his death particularly difficult because she couldn’t do anything to help him like she normally would have.
“When you’ve lived with a hypochondriac for 50 years and he finally has something bad, that’s hard. My pain was that I always saved him and I didn’t save him this time,” said Barbara.
“I was at my son’s little league game when my mom called and her voice cracked a little and she said dad’s in the hospital and he had had a stroke,” Scott recalled in the documentary. “On Friday, my three kids came to see him and they threw the ball with him, and then the next day, he didn’t wake up. He was still alive, but he was in a coma.”
Over the next few days, dozens of Hollywood legends rushed to Marshall’s side to say their goodbyes.
“They all showed up. They all came. All of them, from wherever they were, they dropped whatever they were doing to see him,” said Scott.
The Happy Days of Garry Marshall airs Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.