Nelson in 1964
Sharon Kristin Harmon
June 25, 1945
|Died||April 27, 2018 (aged 72)|
|Other names||Kristin Nelson Tinker|
|Occupation||Actress, painter, author|
(m. 1963; div. 1982)
(m. 1988; div. 2000)
|Children||Tracy, Matthew, Gunnar and Sam Nelson|
Harriet Hilliard Nelson
Following her marriage to Ricky in 1963, Nelson joined him and his family on their television show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as a regular cast member, first appearing in the episode, "Rick's Wedding Ring".
In 1965, she co-starred with Rick in the romantic comedy, Love and Kisses, in which they demonstrate the troubles of a young couple of school age who get married--an "inspired casting", according to one critic.
Subsequently, she played Officer Jim Reed's wife, Jean, on Adam-12, guest-starred on other series and appeared in a few theatrical films, including The Resurrection of Broncho Billy, which won an Academy Award for best live action short film. She retired from acting in 1982 following Liar's Moon.
Nelson painted since she was 17, and had her first one-woman art show in 1967. Her work, which was described as "widely acclaimed", is in the primitive genre, and has been likened to that of Grandma Moses. Her oil paintings went for up to $5,000 in the 1970s.
Nelson's brightly colored primitives found favors with Jacqueline Kennedy and Mia Farrow, among other celebrities. Her career as an artist received a boost when Jacqueline Kennedy purchased her painting When the Kennedys Were in the White House. She became a favorite of several Hollywood collectors including Mia Farrow, Tyne Daly and Dwight Yoakam.
Her paintings are conceived without perspective and are brightly colored with many figures included. Judy Blundell said, "Any symbolism is straightforward and honest. As an artist she is not concerned with being clever or elusive; she is simply using her talent as a means of true visual documentation." Subjects include When the Kennedys Were in the White House (1964) and The Day He Died (1990), a memorial to her father which is painted on a window frame and depicts a country church and clouds raining. In 1999, her paintings were published in a coffee-table-sized autobiography, Out of My Mind. The paintings document her life story and are supplemented with diary entries and poems.
Nelson first met Ricky Nelson when she was "just another 12-year-old fan" of his. They began dating on Christmas Day, 1961, when she was 16 and Rick was 21. A year later, the couple announced their engagement. They were married on April 20, 1963, in a Catholic ceremony at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Nelson was pregnant, and Rick later described the union as a "shotgun wedding". Rick, a non-practicing Protestant, received instruction in Catholicism before the wedding and signed a pledge to have any children of the union baptized in the Catholic faith.
The couple went on to have three more children, but their extravagant lifestyle forced Rick to tour for long periods, placing great pressure on the marriage. By 1975, the Nelsons were on the verge of breaking up. When Rick returned from a tour in 1977, he discovered Nelson had moved him out of their home and into a rented house. Less than a month later, she found him there with two Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders. Rick later claimed that she set him up to use the incident against him in court.
In October 1977, Nelson filed for divorce and asked for alimony, custody of their four children and a portion of community property, but the couple temporarily reconciled.
In April 1980, the couple bought Errol Flynn's 1941 Mulholland Drive estate for $750,000. Nelson wanted Rick to give up music, spend more time at home, and focus on acting, but Rick continued touring relentlessly. The dispute over Nelson's career created unpleasantness at home.
In October 1980, Nelson again filed for divorce. Attempts to negotiate a preliminary settlement agreement were unsuccessful. In February 1981, Nelson was temporarily granted custody of the children and $3,600 in spousal support. Rick was required to pay a number of family expenses such as property taxes, doctor bills, and school tuition.
Nelson claimed Rick was hiding assets, but in fact Rick was almost broke. Each accused the other of drug and alcohol abuse and of being a poor parent. After two years of acrimony, the couple was divorced in December 1982. The divorce was financially devastating for Rick with attorneys and accountants taking more than $1 million.
Speaking in a 1998 documentary about the Nelson family, Ozzie and Harriet: The Adventures of America's Favorite Family, Nelson said of her marriage to Rick: "I spent my whole life fighting the fairy tale. First trying to be it, then trying to tell the truth."
Nelson and Rick had four children. Their first, daughter Tracy, was born six months after the wedding on October 25, 1963, at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. She weighed four pounds, one ounce, and was slightly premature. As a pre-schooler, Tracy appeared in Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball. In her teens, she attended the exclusive Westlake School for Girls. During her parents' marital difficulties, she stayed with her father in the Mulholland Drive house. Tracy went on to become a professional dancer as well as a successful film and television actress.
Twin sons Gunnar Eric Nelson and Matthew Gray Nelson were born on September 20, 1967. They moved in with their father as soon as they turned 18, three months before he tragically died. Shortly after, they formed the band Nelson, which is still together today.
Their fourth child, Sam Hilliard Nelson, was born August 29, 1974. At six years, he was placed in the care of his maternal grandparents and became the subject of a custody battle between Nelson and her brother Mark Harmon in 1987. Sam earned a degree in psychology and a minor in film from Boston College and has been working in the music business.
In 1987, two years after Rick's death, Nelson was undergoing drug rehabilitation when her brother Mark Harmon and his wife Pam Dawber petitioned for custody of Kristin's youngest son Sam, on the grounds that Kristin was incapable of good parenting. Sam's psychiatrist testified that the thirteen-year-old boy depicted his mother as a dragon and complained about her mood swings and how she prevented him from being with his siblings. Already during his parents' divorce battle between 1980 and 1982, Sam had been taken care of by his aunt Kelly initially, before moving in with his grandparents for 18 months, and eventually going to live with his uncle Mark and his family.
Mark Harmon dropped the custody petition after his sister made allegations of cocaine use by Dawber. Nelson retained custody, although Mark was granted visitation rights. Nelson, her brother Mark and her son Sam also agreed to enter family therapy.
On May 1, 2018, Nelson's daughter Tracy confirmed on Facebook that her mother had died suddenly of a heart attack at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico on April 27, 2018. Tracy wrote, "her heaven would be her dogs, sushi, and a Santa Fe sky."