This memorable Waltons minister married sitcom star Linda Lavin shortly after The Waltons ended

Linda Lavin found love with Kip Niven and his kids, helping them recover from a tragic loss.

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When actor Kip Niven appeared in The Waltons episode "The Beginning" as the newest minister on the mountain, it wasn't his first time on the show. But the character he played would prove to be more memorable than his first, a forgettable lieutenant in "The Pin Up."

As Reverend Tom Marshall, Niven became the final minister to preach on The Waltons, appearing three times in the final year of the show.

In 1982, he returned to play the character in the memorable reunion movie A Wedding on Walton's Mountain, marrying Erin off.

You likely didn't realize that same year, Niven got married himself, to Alice star Linda Lavin.

Their wedding took place in their Malibu home, with 200 friends and relatives cheering on their union, including Kip's son and daughter from his previous marriage, who served in the happy couple's wedding party.

Lavin hadn't expected to marry Kip, although she fell for him hard right away. She couldn't help it, though, after Niven planned what the Alice star saw as the perfect first date.

"I never believed there could be a man like that," Lavin told The Wisconsin State Journal in 1983. "He's someone who doesn't hold onto his unhappiness. He doesn't need it. Our first date was a picnic on the beach with his kids. Here was this wonderful man who was separated from his wife and had these two beautiful children — it was a Technicolor movie!"

They decided to take their time getting to know each other. Lavin had just gotten out of her first marriage with Kaz star Ron Leibman, and she wasn't in a rush to give her heart away.

That didn't mean she didn't try to woo Niven, who was known to casting agents of commercials for being the perfect good-natured dad type. In real life, he proved to be just that, and Lavin wanted to show she could hang.

"I wanted to show him how adorable I was!" she said. "How terrific! Give the kids cookies and balloons, play with them. There was a day here, a day there — no extended period of time. We were like The Brady Bunch."

Gently testing the waters of their relationship was going great — until tragedy struck and forced the couple closer together.

The mother of Nivens' kids was killed in a car accident, and from that point on, they never left Lavin's house. Soon, the couple decided to get married, and Lavin said what helped them get through the tragic loss was being dedicated to uplifting one another.

"We work hard at being a family," Lavin said.

Within a year of their marriage, Lavin had mastered the transition from TV star to housewife, refusing to hire a housekeeper or cook and waking up with the sun to make her whole family waffles.

She said she realized how much joining Niven's family meant to her one day when a wildfire risked burning down their whole home. As Niven scrambled to gather as many irreplaceable items as he could, his second wife could only think of one thing she needed to salvage: their wedding photos.

It was the only documentation she had of that fateful day when she married the Pontiac Firebird spokesman, who classic TV fans knew as Rev. Tom Marshall on the Waltons and who she learned firsthand was every bit the family man that he portrayed on TV.

The couple remained married the whole time Alice was on the air, and Niven occasionally appeared on his wife's show. In 1992, they divorced, but Lavin continued on as an attentive adopted mother to his kids and later to their kids as a grandma.

Nevin passed away in 2019, but Lavin remains active and can still be seen acting in TV roles, including a recurring role on a CBS sitcom called B Positive.

"Ours was a great romance, Kip's and mine," Lavin said.

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DeborahRoberts 18 days ago
Me-TV occasionally runs some odd little stories, but this is one of the oddest. Memorability is in the eye of the beholder, but as ministers on "The Waltons," I'd say Nivens's four appearances rank considerably behind the Ritter's four seasons and Fox's season plus two television movies. It might have been worth highlighting an insignificant character for a true "up from the ashes" love story. But Lavin's divorce was granted on grounds of adultery and cruelty, and Lavin characterized the end of the marriage as "magnificent." According to her, he spent the entire marriage treating her with "disgust and contempt." He tried to hold her up for $6 million in HER earnings, but getting rid of him cost Lavin only $675,000. She indicated it was money well spent.
Markvaladez 19 days ago
Wasn’t Kip in the 1970s version of Midway?
Gina 20 days ago
Lovely story, but sad to say, they had an acrimonious divorce. At least they got a few good years.
kimmer 22 days ago
Sweet story....funny though...thought as a kid my cousin was the only living human to have the name Kip...little did I know...lol
NHaynes 22 days ago
I liked him on an episode of Hart to Hart, playing a creepy classmate of Jennifer's who tried to kill Jonathan so he could have her to himself. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but his marriage to Linda Lavin was rocky at best. This story paints a rosey picture of a contentious marriage. It was very ugly at the end.
MrsPhilHarris NHaynes 22 days ago
I agree. After reading this article I looked them up. I expected some great love story and instead got a story about an acrimonious divorce.
DethBiz 22 days ago
Will always remember Kip with his infamous...Call me Eee-Vil from the 80s slasher flic New Year's Evil with Pinky Tuscadero.
Michael 22 days ago
This was the fifth and last.minister on The Waltons, arriving after WWII ended. (The show went through WWII pretty fast, and then almost seemed to have more episodes after, as everyone slowly returned to normal.)

There was John Ritter, who married the schoolteacher and moved away so he could be on Three's Company. A gung ho minister who like fishing, and who Corabeth was interested in. I can't picture the next one. But there was actually an older minister for a while, a contrast with the rest, who were young. And then the last, this one, who had been an army chaplin, and showed up by ringing the church bell in the middle of the night.

The church needed repair at that point, indicating it had gone unused for a time. I thought that also happened previously when a new minister appeared.
LoveMETV22 Michael 18 days ago
Ralph Waite, was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Although he never played any role on the Waltons as one. Actually maybe ironically he was the one character that wasn't the church goer.
AnnieM LoveMETV22 9 days ago
He played a Catholic priest on Days of Our Lives for several years until his death in 2014. No wonder he was so good in the role.
WordsmithWorks 22 days ago
"Used to be sad. Used to be shy. The funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why." Is it weird that that song pops into my head every once in a while? My vote: Yeah.
AgingDisgracefully 22 days ago
The same Linda who was threatened by the popularity of Polly Holiday (Flo) on Alice?
Insecure much?
The "gossip" columns on the Lavin- Holliday feud probably added to the visibility of the show. The show went on after Holliday departed for her own spinoff "Flo". Holliday never made any guest appearances on Alice after her departure. Perhaps they both had insecurities.
AnnieM LoveMETV22 9 days ago
Didn't 'Flo' only last one season, too? The only thing I remember Polly Holiday in aside from playing Flo was in one of the 'Gremlins' movies. I can't even remember which one, and right now I'm too lazy to look it up.
LoveMETV22 22 days ago
Liked "Alice" the series (1976-1985) 9 Seasons- 202 episodes
Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Polly Holliday, Beth Howland, Philip McKeon (Nancy McKeon's brother).
They had some notable supporting characters and guest stars.
AnnieM LoveMETV22 9 days ago
I had a crush on Philip McKeon back in the day. Was so shocked and saddened when he passed away a couple of years back.
LoveMETV22 AnnieM 9 days ago
His sister Nancy McKeon is still with us and did a few tv roles just recently.
Andybandit 23 days ago
Nice story. I love her in the new show called B-Postive on CBS
BrittReid 23 days ago
I remember Kip Niven in Magnum Force with Clint.
LoveMETV22 23 days ago
Lavin is in the cast of the future "Being the Ricardos" film. Should be a good watch hopefully.
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