James Arness Bore the Grief of Losing Two Children before His Death
Late actor James Arness was a father to three children.
Arness, renowned for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years in the CBS television series Gunsmoke, first adopted his first wife, Virginia Chapman's son, Craig.
He later had two biological children with Chapman — daughter Jenny Lee and son Rolf.
James Arness's Two Children Passed Away Early
Sadly, two of his three kids passed away early, even before his death in June 2011.
A picture of James Arness from the show Gunsmoke. (Photo: Instagram)
The actor's daughter, Jenny Lee, born on May 23, 1950, was the first child to leave the family.
She reportedly took her own life with a sleeping pill overdose in May 1975.
Years later, Arness lost his second child. His adopted son, Craig, died at the age of 58 in December 2004. He reportedly had been undergoing treatment for lung and anemia complications.
Craig had established himself as a magazine photographer.
His first assignment was for National Geographic in 1976. He subsequently spent the next ten years of his life traveling around the world and writing seven National Geographic stories and books.
His work was even recognized with Best Photograph and Best Photo of the Year title in the Magazine Pictorial Division of the National Press Photographers Association.
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In addition, he was married to his wife, Daphne, and had two children, Holly and Brian.
At present, Arness's only surviving child is his son Rolf, who became a world surfing champion in 1970. He had started surfing from a young age with the support of his father.
He now lives a private life in Los Angeles and regularly volunteers at a Santa Monica mental health clinic.
James Arness's Wife Died of Drug Overdose
Like his daughter, Arness's first wife, Chapman, died of a drug overdose in 1977, two years after the couple's daughter passed away.
According to the coroner's office, she was found dead in her beach home. She was 56 years old at the time of her death.
Arness and his wife Virginia Chapman in 1956. (Photo: Twitter)
Another report from The OCR reveals she was emotionally troubled and had previously attempted suicide twice, in 1959 and 1960.
Following those events, Arness divorced her in 1963, ending their marriage of 15 years. They had tied the knot in 1948.
After the separation, Arness got legal custody of their children. And he lived a private family life with them.
"The kids don't really have any part of my television life," he remarked after the divorce. "Fortunately, there aren't many times when show business intrudes on our family existence."
James Arness Had Two Relationships Afterward
Arness later found love in Thordis Brand. He met her four years after his divorce from Chapman and dated her for six years.
However, they didn't get married or have children from their relationship.
But the Gunsmoke star married the next woman he met after his split from Brand. His second wife, who was married to him until he passed away, was Janet Surtees.