Ralph Waite and Michael Learned renewed their faith in love while making The Waltons
When ''The Anniversary'' aired, the Waltons parents separately found real love with younger partners.
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When John and Olivia Walton celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on The Waltons, the opening narration summed up their love: "Between two people in a good marriage there develops a kind of silent communication. Each knows what to expect of the other, when to offer strength, where to step lightly."
For actor Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, he said he'd never acted across from anyone as long as he did his costar Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton.
"I spent more time with Michael than in my own marriage," Waite told The Tennessean in 1978. "I've never had the experience working with an actress for seven years. She's like family."
During their time on the show, both Waite and Learned were recovering from lost faith in love, both experiencing divorces, Learned striking out twice. For Waite in particular, his one divorce may have been worse than two. He told The Tampa Tribune in 1977 that he saw his divorce as ending his last chance at love.
"Our separation was so painful that I never allowed myself to consider marriage again," Waite said.
We've told you before how Waite and Learned developed a romantic connection behind the scenes. They ultimately decided against pursuing it for the well-being of the cast.
But that didn't mean all hope for love was as lost as Waite feared. Both found fresh love with guest stars of The Waltons.
For Learned, she started dating the actor-writer William Parker, who penned episodes of The Waltons and guest-starred in one episode ("The Revelation"). Things got serious. They moved in together, then married.
Parker was 12 years younger than Learned, and one TV critic in The Record in 1978 joked this relationship would likely have scandalized Olivia Walton. Learned said she saw some of herself in Olivia, though, so we think Olivia would approve.
"She's not a bad old girl," Learned said of Olivia. "In fact, she has a lot of good characteristics, and, of course, there's a good deal of Michael Learned in her, too."
For Waite, in 1977 he started dating and married the actor Kerry Shear, who was 20 years younger and made her TV debut on The Waltons two years later ("The Innocents"). Waite first met her in 1969, but it took eight years before he was ready to get serious, ready to put marriage back on the table.
We already knew that The Waltons gave both Waite and Learned a TV family they treasured and a deep bond between them as that family's parents with real feelings for one another.
Now we know the show also helped both to mend their hearts and find new love — right around the time John and Olivia celebrated a significant milestone in their cherished TV marriage.