Closer Look at the Lives of Sara and Melissa Gilbert

Apr 30, 2021Odette Odendaal

Actresses and half-sisters, Sara and Melissa Gilbert, didn’t have the same father but shared a strong paternal influence that helped shape their adult lives. The late Paul Gilbert married Barbara Cowan in June 1962, and the couple adopted two children, Melissa and Jonathan, before their divorce in 1972. Then Barbara married Harold Abeles on May 26, 1973, with whom she had Sara. Harold and Barbara’s marriage also only lasted ten years before their divorce on May 13, 1983.

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Nine years Melissa’s junior, Sara came into the world at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California on January 29, 1975. Just a year earlier Melissa landed the role of Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie,” which made of her a household name. Sara saw Melissa get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and decided right there and then to become an actress herself. Sara made her first on-screen appearance in the 1984 television movie “Calamity Jane.” 

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Even though her father had been a successful lawyer, he fell on hard times after her parents divorced in 1983. The first couple of times, Harold asked Sara for financial support, she gave in, but then the continued requests worsened their relationship. Eventually, Sara decided to stop giving her father money but later realized how difficult it must have been for him to ask for money. When Harold got ill during later years, Sara became his primary caregiver until his death. She tried to make up for refusing him financial help when he needed it.

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Sara also had her own internal struggles. At the time she starred in “Roseanne” and dated her co-star and on-screen husband, Johnny Galecki. As their relationship progressed, Sara realized she is a homosexual. "I thought he was super cute and had a total crush on him, and we started dating, and he would come over, and we would make out, and then I would start to get depressed. Johnny felt bad, I think, and started to take it personally, so I eventually told him that I thought it was about my sexuality and he was super sweet about it," Sara explained.

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Half-sister Melissa knew and accepted Sara as a homosexual long before she realized it herself, as she shared during an interview on “The Talk.” “I took her to dinner when she was in her teens, and I sat her down, and I gave her this long speech about how much I love you, and it doesn’t matter, and you’re my darling and blah, blah, blah and you can tell me anything. And she looked at me, and she said, ‘I’m not gay.’ And I was like, ‘OK, whatever,'” Melissa recalled.

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During Melissa’s time on the iconic show, “Little House on the Prairie,” she struggled with paternal problems of her own. Born in Los Angeles, California on May 8, 1964, Melissa’s parents, Barbara and Paul divorced after she turned six. At the age of eleven, Melissa was told that her beloved father died after he suffered a stroke.

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“I had my own familial traumas and difficulties. My mother remarried a few times. There were sadness and discomfort at home,” Melissa said on Oprah’s “Where are they Now?”. Her father, a talented actor and World War II veteran passed away two years after Melissa started working on “Little House on the Prairie,” but the truth about his death only came out years later. Melissa hired a private investigator after she learned that Paul actually committed suicide. “Basically, what happened was he was under the care of the VA. He was a World War II veteran, and he was in uncontrolled excruciating pain and had been threatening suicide,” Melissa said. “So, he shot himself.”

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During a sit down with Daily Mail, Melissa revealed what her life became after she left the show in 1984. "I'm much better going forward than backward or sideways," she said. She explained that being a child star was a fun and amazing chapter of her life; however, it did put a lot of pressure on her to always look good.

She confessed that as she grew older, she indulged in extensive cosmetic work to look younger. 

"I went down the road that everyone else does - nose job, boob job, fillers and Botox, but no more!"

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However, she is no longer plying that road as she vows to embrace her old age with pride. 

"I'm a 53-year-old woman and I'm trying to embrace this process of ageing. I'm grateful to my body for holding up through some major health issues and serious surgeries."

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As a Democrat, Melissa decided to run for the 8th Congressional District seat out of Michigan in 2015. The previous year she avidly supported Michigan’s gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and wanted the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives on a larger scale.  Newly married to fellow actor Timothy Busfield at the time, he became her third husband in April 2013. Melissa had previously been married to Bruce Boxleitner and Bo Brinkman and had a child with them both, respectively.

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Sister Sara had also tied the knot after her love life took an unexpected turn. In 2011, shortly after she became a co-host on “The Talk,” Sara and her girlfriend Allison Adler split up after ten years of relationship and two children. The couple kept their split amicable and continued to co-parent Levi Hank and Sawyer Jane with “a lot of love for each other.” Sara and Adler have joint custody of their children. The pair remained on good terms over the years, and it wasn’t until 2017 that Sara opened up about their break up. 

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Back in November 2011, Sara decided to use her show to gush her cohosts about a brand new love in her life. This time? It was the former 4 Non-Blondes lead singer, songwriter, and producer, Linda Perry. It's very likely that the name Linda Perry does not ring a bell to you. And that's because Linda focused her career on collaborating as the pop hitmaker of major stars such as Pink, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, and Courtney Love. 

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Sara continued hosting her show after giving birth, but in the short years that followed, her priorities shifted. And a couple of months ago, Sara announced her departure from "The Talk" to focus more on family life. The host revealed that she has too much on her plate with three growing children, so she is now busy as a bee. Gilbert confessed to viewers in April: "I loved it and felt totally empowered, but also, if I'm being honest about it, my life was slightly out of balance. I wasn't able to spend as much time with my three kids as I'd like, or time for myself." 

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April 2013 marked the legalization of same-sex marriage in California, so the soulmates decided to formalize their love finally. Sara unveiled that it was Linda who proposed to her while picnicking by putting on T-shirts with the words "will" "you" "marry" and "me" with some musicians playing "Love Song" to liven up the romantic moment. Needless to say, the answer was a resounding yes. 

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There was an intimate marriage ceremony-and comes a baby! On February 28, 2015, their family officially grew with another member when Sara gave birth to their son Rhodes Emilio. Of course, Sara was already a mother of two when they tied the knot, but she knew that her new wife would need a child of their own. 

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Despite the fact that they are sisters, Sara and Melissa have managed to stay true to their individual identities throughout the cause of their lives. Luckily, it turned out great for them as they are both fulfilled in all areas of life. It's great their fame and achievements haven't affected their relationships negatively. Which sister do you prefer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

Click 'Continue reading' to find out how Albert from 'Little House on the Prairie' looks now. He is 52 years old and looks more handsome than ever!

Image Credits: Facebook/ Littlehouseontheprairie

Source: TODAY, Daily Mail

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