Mark Harmon’s career was overshadowed by a sad family feud and custody battle with his late sister – how she died is so sad

Mark Harmon is one of those actors whose character is almost as well-known as the actor himself. Harmon landed the job of a lifetime as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS, making him one of the world’s most renowned faces.

Behind the scenes, though, Mark Harmon has had his share of difficulties, and his sister’s terrible death in 2018 was a devastating blow to the actor and his family. Mark Harmon has spent his whole adult life in the entertainment world.

Though he has a long and illustrious career, the last 20 years have been almost totally concentrated on his role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit television show NCIS, for which he has received Emmy nominations and other honors.

Harmon went from football heartthrob to brilliant actor in a couple of years throughout his youth. At the same time, he’s kept his private life private, always putting his family first.

Tom Harmon, Mark’s father, was an All-American football player who won the Heisman Trophy in 1940. He was even the first overall choice in the 1941 NFL Draft. However, the older Harmon gave up his football career to become a fighter pilot during WWII.

He got work in television sports after the war. Elyse Knox, Harmon’s mother, was an actress. Harmon also has two sisters, Kristin and Kelly.

Kelly became a model and actress, and Kristin worked as both an actor and a painter. Kristin Harmon, born on June 25, 1945, was the oldest of the Harmon siblings. But, tragically, she is no longer with us. Kristin died suddenly in 2018.

She had a rough life filled with marital problems, substance misuse issues, and even a period of alienation from one of her children. Many people are unaware that Mark Harmon played an important part in assisting his sister during her difficult times. When Kristin was unable to provide sufficient care for her youngest kid, he obtained temporary custody of him.

Kristin’s life appeared to be shaping up to be a true Hollywood story at first. She met the man who would become her future husband, the famed actor and singer Ricky Nelson, when she was just 12 years old.

Kristin Harmon and Ricky Nelson began dating around 1961. Kristin had a similar upbringing, having been reared in Hollywood. Her family and the Nelsons were also great friends.

They married in April 1963 and were married for 19 years. Kristin was 17 and Ricky was 23 when they married. They had four children: Sam Hilliard Nelson, twins Matthew Gray Nelson and Gunnar Eric Nelson, and Tracy Kristine Nelson, an actress.

Ricky Nelson was a great teen idol at the time, and his fame grew throughout the 1960s as he constantly released top 40 hits. His popular music was in the burgeoning rock and roll genre, which led to several tours for him over the years.

Kristin’s career took off when she began appearing on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, one of the most popular television shows of all time. She also had some more important parts, but her marriage to Ricky Nelson began to fray after a while, and Kristin’s personal issues would eventually ruin her.

The hard-partying lifestyle, as well as all that comes with being married to a rock star, began to take their toll. Kristin eventually found herself trapped in a downward spiral from which she couldn’t escape.

”We were hippie rock n’ rollers. We did what everyone else was doing all those years,” Kristin told People in 1987 and added:

”I got into therapy and so did he for a while but then he started not showing up. I tried telling my family, there’s a drug problem here and we’ve all got to help. But they totally denied there was anything wrong.”

Kristin and Ricky separated and were on the verge of divorce in 1975, but they decided to reconcile and work on their marriage. Prior to their reconciliation, Ricky was caught cheating on two cheerleaders. He later claimed he was set up so Kristin could gain custody of the children.

Although the famous couple momentarily reconnected, they eventually separated again, eventually divorcing in 1982.

Ricky Nelson tragically died in a plane tragedy in 1985. The singer died in a bizarre accident when a heater in an airliner caught fire, killing all but the pilot. Kristin’s terrible behavior was worsened by the horrific occurrence, and while her elder children had already gone out, her son Sam remained with her.

Ricky Nelson tragically died in a plane tragedy in 1985. The singer died in a bizarre accident when a heater in an airliner caught fire, killing all but the pilot. Kristin’s terrible behavior was worsened by the horrific occurrence, and while her elder children had already gone out, her son Sam remained with her.

”Nobody but my brother could have talked me into this because I trusted him. A voice inside me said, ‘For once in your life, let somebody help you’,” Kristin explained.

It soon became apparent that Sam no longer wanted to live with his mother.

Mark Harmon

Sam was 13 years old at the time, and his maternal uncle, actor Mark Harmon, and his wife, actress Pam Dawber, petitioned for custody of him.

Harmon said that his sister Kristin was addicted to drugs and hence unable to parent the 13-year-old child. The trial drew a lot of media attention and exposed many intimate and unpleasant details. Sam’s psychiatrist testified during the trial that the 13-year-old kid described his mother as a dragon, expressing concerns about her mood swings and how she limited his relationships with his brothers.

It was a difficult moment for the entire family, and no one knew what the conclusion of the custody struggle would be.

However, Mark Harmon withdrew his plea after his sister revealed alarming charges of cocaine use by his wife, Pam Dawber. According to OK! Magazine, Kristin’s attorneys stated that Dawber used cocaine while working on the set of Mork & Mindy, a program that aired from 1978 to 1982 and starred the late Robin Williams.

Finally, the NCIS star and his sister reached an accord and exited the courtroom together. Nelson kept custody, while Harmon was permitted visits. Kristin informed reporters that she and her brother will now try to patch things up. Kristin, Mark, and Sam have also agreed to participate in family therapy.

Harmon chose not to comment on anything after the proceedings. However, his lawyer issued a brief statement and said that: ”I think they all realized that this was tearing the family apart”.

Fortunately, Kristin and Sam’s relationship started to heal after the bitter feud.

”As you get older, things that were important aren’t important anymore. Problems aren’t problems anymore. You work through them, or you don’t. But for the most part, you hope to. I think we’re in a good way together, and we have a good relationship,” Kristin said in 2016.

Last years and cause of death

Kristin married TV producer and director Mark Tinker one year after the custody fight. Their marriage lasted 12 years till they divorced in 2000. Kristin spent her final years mostly hidden from the public eye. Tragically, she died of a heart attack on April 27, 2018. She was 72 years old.

According to her daughter Tracy, Kristin ”passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.”

”A force. A reckoning. Artist, first, always. Anarchist, bohemian, beauty. Hurricane Kris,” Tracy wrote in a Facebook post and added:

”No one could blow the house down like she could. And no one could make something out of nothing like she could.”

Mark Harmon has been silent about his relationship with Kristin over the years, making it difficult to ascertain the extent of their closeness at the time of her death.