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.