Sunday, May 26, 2024

“NCIS” Star Mark Harmon’s Sister, Kristin, Ex Wife of Ricky Nelson Died April 26–And it Only Came Out Today


If it weren’t for her daughter, Tracy Nelson, posting on Facebook on May 1st, we’d never have known that Kristin Harmon Nelson died on April 26th.

As it is, no one seemed aware of Tracy’s post until yesterday, when Radar Online posted a story about the death of Mark Harmon’s sister.

Kristin Harmon Nelson Tinker, an artist, painter, and author, was 72. She was the daughter of football great Tom Harmon. As a teenager she married America’s TV heart throb Ricky Nelson and appeared with him on his parents’ TV show “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”

Kristin and Ricky Nelson had four children– Tracy, Matthew and Gunnar– who become the rock group Nelson, and Sam. By the mid 80s the marriage was over. Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash in 1985. Kristin turned to booze and drugs and went into rehab.

Mark Harmon, then on “St. Elsewhere,” and his wife Pam Dawber, took custody of Sam, who was a teen. But when Kristin recovered she had to go to court to fight her brother to get her son back. It was a nasty tabloid fight that left the future “NCIS” star estranged from his sister.

Kristin remarried — to “St. Elsewhere” producer Mark Tinker, son of MTM and NBC president Grant Tinker — in 1988. They divorced in 2000 and Mark Tinker married a woman 20 years his junior. This is Hollywood, remember.

Tracy Nelson posted a loving remembrance of her mother to Facebook on May 1st, but somehow it went unseen– until today, after “NCIS,” coincidentally, had its season finale. Remember, this is Hollywood. Last year, Tracy writes, Kris Nelson almost died was put into a coma. Tracy writes: “But I looked at that clenched jaw even in her unconsciousness and told my kids, nope, she’s coming back, you watch. And she did. No one could light up a room like she could, or a conversation, or lead an army of friends into joyful noise like she could. If you knew her you knew this.”

It’s a tragic ending from a family that in 1963, seemed perfect. To this day when we hear of a happy suburban family we call them “an Ozzie and Harriet family.” But it was never like that. They were human, just like the rest of us.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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