Valerie Lundeen was “Tarzan” star Ron Ely’s wife and a former beauty pageant queen. The 62-year-old woman was stabbed to death at their Santa Barbara, California, home on October 15, 2019. Her 81-year-old husband was inside the home, but was not injured, police say. Police say the suspect in the crime their 30-year-old son, Cameron Ely.
The suspect, who has not been identified, was later shot dead by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies, the department said in a statement. Ely is best remembered as the lead actor on NBC’s “Tarzan” TV show that ran between 1966 and 1968. In addition, Ely also played the role of Doc Savage in “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.”
Ely and Lundeen married in 1984 and had three children together: two daughters, Kirsten and Kaitland, and a son, Cameron. In 2013, Kirsten wrote a blog post about her love for her parents, saying, “Your mom really can be your best friend. And your dad really can give amazing advice. Just because you’re an ‘adult,’ it doesn’t mean that mom and dad should be kicked to the curb. It can be quite a gift to be able to stay their ‘little girl’… it can also be horribly annoying… but try to ignore the annoying part.”
Lundeen was crowned Miss Florida USA in 1981 while representing Miami and went on to compete at the Miss USA beauty pageant later that year.
Lundeen’s death was confirmed in a social media post from a close friend.
Here’s what you need to know about Valrie Lundeen, Ron Ely’s wife:
1. The Suspect Was Shot Dead on Ron Ely & Valerie Lundeen’s Property After Deputies Responded to a Report of a Family Disturbance
Lundeen was found dead of stab wounds at 8:15 p.m. in the couple’s home in the Hope Ranch along Mariposa Drive area of Santa Barbara. Officers had been called to the home after receiving a report about a family disturbance. The suspect was on the property when officers responded to the scene where he was shot dead.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, Lieutenant Erik Raney, told KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara that no officers were hurt and that there were several deputies involved in the shooting. Raney said, “We don’t know exactly how many shots were fired. We did have several deputies that were involved in the shooting. Fortunately, all of our deputies are OK.” As per protocol, the deputies involved in the shooting will be placed on leave while an investigation is carried out.
Raney told CNN that Ely’s speech is impeded due to a medical condition. Ely is believed to be OK, but was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
According to his IMDb page, Ely retired from acting in 2001. Among his notable guest roles saw him appear in episodes of “Wonder Woman,” “Fantasy Island,” “Love Boat” as well as hosting the Miss America pageant between 1980 and 1981. Ely came out of retirement in 2014 to appear in the Lifetime movie, “Expecting Amish” alongside Jesse McCartney and Alyson Stoner.
2. Lundeen, a Former Flight Attendant, Once Wrote a Letter to Comedian Phyllis Diller to Thank Her for Her Book, ‘Marriage Manual’
In 1984, Lundeen wrote a letter to comedian Phylliss Diller to thank her for her book, “Marriage Manual.” Lundeen wrote, “Thank you so much for “Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual.” It has explained so many things that I’ve been wondering about. Although I’ve enjoyed it, I’m beginning to suspect that Ron is memorizing it. Hope we see you soon! Love, Valerie and Ron.”
Before her marriage to Ely, Lundeen was a beauty pageant contestant and a flight attendant, according to a December 1980 article in the Fort Myers News-Press. Lundeen, a former Miami resident, won Miss Airlines International, a beauty pageant for flight attendants and other airline employees, in 1980, according to The Miami News.
Lundeen attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, The Miami News wrote in 1976. She was named “Miss Green Feather,” in 1976, a title given to a student at the school to recognize her charitable efforts.
3. Ely Said He Retired Because He Was ‘Fully Committed’ to His Wife & Kids
Ely has written two novels, “Night Shadows,” published in 1994, and “East Beach,” published in 1995. In a 2012 interview with Fanboy Planet, Ely said that part of the reason he didn’t write anymore was due to his commitment to his family. When asked why there were no more novels forthcoming, Ely said, “That’s a tough question to answer because there’s not a lot that I do that’s not family-oriented. I am fully committed to my wife and my children. That’s why I stepped out of the business because I wanted to spend more time to raise my kids.”
Ely elaborated on that in a later interview with the Daily Express where he said, “Late in life I had a young family. I decided to stop acting and work at home, as an author, that way I could be with the kids all through school and be able to attend their sports games and things.” Ely said in a 2013 interview that thanks for his retirement, he was able to coach all of his kids’ sports teams.
4. Ely Joked in 2012 That His Wife Was Now ‘Tired’ of Having Him Around the House
Ely joked in the same interview that since his kids have now-grown-up, they wanted him to go back to work. Ely added, “My wife especially. She’s tired of me being around the house.” The “Tarzan” star went on to say that his eldest daughter was a lawyer and his son, Cameron, lived upstairs in the home with two rooms. Ely said, “It’s great in the morning. We see each other. We see each other in the evening, we see each other when they come and go. We’re always in touch.” Cameron Ely was alongside his father during the interview, at one point, Ely lost sight of Cameron and said his son “Must have been [drawn away by] a pretty girl, because that’s the only thing that could draw him away.”
Ely spoke about this again in a 2014 interview with the Sacramento Bee, Ely said, “I stepped out of acting to raise a family and be able to spend more time with them here in Santa Barbara. Now, all the kids are through college with advance degrees. My family asked me ‘what are you hanging around for?’ I started looking around and this film came up. It felt so good making the movie, I wish I had never left.”
5. Ron Ely Was Previously Married to His High School Sweetheart
Between 1959 and 1961, Ely was married to his high school sweetheart, Cathy Ely. The pair were both natives of Hereford, Texas. Ely said in a 2013 interview that the pair were “too young” and that Cathy was not comfortable when they moved to California to further his acting career.
Ely said, “However she ended up staying out here and married someone I introduced her to. He’s a great guy and I was really pleased about all that. I stayed single for a number of years until I met my wife.”