Today, Shelley Fabares, who is famous for co-starring with Elvis Presley and being a teen idol, turns 79. The lively, lovable teen favorite star quickly transitioned into adult roles back in the day, but the same cannot be said about many of her 1960s “teen queen” peers whose careers gradually dwindled.
Fabares gained the teen idol title when she starred in “The Donna Reed Show” as the daughter of Mary Stone in 1958. She played the role for five seasons before starting a more grown-up movie career. The California native has starred alongside the acclaimed singer Presley three times and has had a well-balanced career for years.
As she started acting at a young age, Fabares first settled down when she married record producer Lou Adler in 1964. However, the pair separated in the mid-1960s and ultimately divorced in 1980 after 14 years of marriage.
She gave love another chance when she wed actor Mike Farrell in 1984 and became a stepmother to his two kids from a previous marriage.
What Happened to Fabares & What Did Her Husband Do?
Fabres’ health took a knock over the years following a home injury where she broke several ribs in 1998. She was later diagnosed with severe auto-immune hepatitis and had to get a liver transplant in 2000.
The veteran actress opened up about her recovery process in April 2003. She admitted that she and her husband did not think the surgery would be necessary and believed it was only a “safety measure” after doctors suggested it.
Shelley Fabares and Mike Farrell attend the “Patch Adams” New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 13, 1998 in New York City, New York ┃Source: Getty Images
Reality soon kicked in, and Fabares knew that a new liver would be her only saving grace. In April 1999, she was put on a liver transplant waiting list, and once again knew deep down that it would take a while to get one because, usually, those on the list pass away before eventually getting one.
The “Coach” star said she knew she only had minimum time to survive because of the wait, which became unbearable. However, she had already accepted her fate.
Fabares experienced false hope at some point as her “transplant” pager went off with a “false alarm.” That became recurring because people continuously dialed the wrong numbers.
The situation became even more strenuous, and she believed that she and Farrell would eventually die before receiving a new liver. As time passed, the couple trained themselves not to “over-react” once the pager went off.
While patiently waiting for a donor organ, Fabares’ condition worsened, causing exhaustion. She became more prone to sleeping most of the time.
Shelly Fabares attends the “ABC Affiliates Party” at the Century Plaza Hotel on June 3, 1992 in Los Angeles, California ┃Source: Getty Images
Finally, after waiting for 22 months, she received some good news on October 23, 2000, when the pager went off, which was the real deal this time. The procedure was a success. Fabares said she is blessed by what came out of the experience, which “changed” her.
The singer said although she managed to pick up the pieces and return to her everyday life, she became a “different” individual because of the ordeal. She views life differently and has developed a new “approach.”
Most importantly, she expressed gratitude to her beloved husband, Farrell, who stood by her through thick and thin. He became her full-time caregiver and nursed her back to good health. Two decades later, Fabares is happy and healthy.
“I am so incredibly blessed by the man I am married to. I was so very ill for such a long time, and we didn’t know what was wrong, but he was with me every step of the way – accompanying me to every doctor’s appointment. He’s just monumental, and I don’t know how I could have gotten through this without him,” said Fabares.
Mike Farrell and his wife Shelley Fabares arrive at the Sundance Channel’s premiere screening of their new series “The Red Road” at The Bronson Caves at Griffith Park on February 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California ┃Source: Getty Images
The two-time Emmy Award nominee stated that things could have panned out differently because such circumstances can easily break up homes. But she said quite the opposite happened to her and the “M*A*S*H” star as their family became “stronger and closer.”
“Situations like this – catastrophic illnesses – can tear some families apart, but ours only got stronger and closer.”
Fabares reiterated that she was thankful for making a full recovery. She thanked the medical professionals who cared for her and again mentioned her darling spouse.
“I’m grateful for my life. Grateful for my doctors. Grateful for what I have learned about myself and about life. And most of all, I’m grateful for my husband. I’ve gained so much,” she said.