The sad story of Kristin Harmon: Mark Harmon's sister who fell on hard times

Mark Harmon’s sister, Kristin Harmon, passed away at the age of 72 on April 27.

NCIS actor Mark Harmon's sister, Kristin Harmon, passed away on April 27 at the age of 72 — Her life was anything but ordinary.

Tracy Nelson, the daughter of the actress and painter who passed away, announced on Facebook that her mom had died from a heart attack on May 1. She said it was sudden and unexpected.

Once a golden girl - Kristin Harmon had pretty famous parents

The football star and Heisman trophy winner Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox Harmon. She was the old sister of Mark Harmon, who's 71 now, and former model Kelly Harmon, 69.

When Kristin was 12, she met Ricky Nelson, who was the son of famous '50s stars Ozzie and Harriet, and starred alongside his family on their long-running sitcom and radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Kristin became obsessed with their family and eventually fell for Ricky. She married him when she was 18, which made her a part of the spotlight since she appeared as their real and TV daughter-in-law.

Just six months after their wedding, the couple welcomed their first child, Tracy, she was pretty young when she landed a role in a flick with Lucille Ball called Yours, Mine, and Ours, and then she went on to star in The Father Dowling Mysteries. Fast forward to '67 and the couple had twin boys, Gunnar and Matthew, who would later form a rock band called Nelson. And last but not least, their fourth kiddo, Sam, came along in '74.

The sad story of Kristin Harmon: Mark Harmon's sister

Kristin and Ricky were living their happily ever after - until they started partying too much.

In a 1987 PEOPLE cover story, she mentioned that they were just a bunch of hippie rockers who did what everyone else was doing back then.

“At first we were in it together,” she continued. “I tried to be one of the guys, to fix the marriage by going on the road and being involved in road stuff that is really not good for anyone. After a while we were totally messed up, both of us. I got into therapy and so did he for a while but then he started not showing up. I tried telling my family, there’s a drug problem here and we’ve all got to help. But they totally denied there was anything wrong.”

The sad story of Kristin Harmon: Mark Harmon's sister
MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY

In 1980, Christine filed for divorce and was granted temporary custody of the children and spousal support. Allegations of her drug and alcohol use, and poor parenting, preceded her final divorce in 1982. 

During this time, Kristin said she continued to use drugs and to drink "quite heavily"

Since she was too drunk to paint, took a job as an assistant casting director for $200 a week. For two years before Kristin’s divorce, Kelly cared for Sam every afternoon and all day Saturday. And for the next 18 months, Sam lived with Kristin’s parents before moving into Mark's house with his wife, Pam Dawber.

Then in 1985, Ricky died along with his fiancée Helen Blair and five members of his road company in a plane crash while traveling to Texas. As Kristin continued to spiral, Mark stepped in and urged her to sign herself into rehab.

Nobody but my brother could have talked me into this because I trusted him,” Kristin said. “A voice inside me said, ‘For once in your life, let somebody help you.’

The sad story of Kristin Harmon: Mark Harmon's sister
PHOTO: PICTURE PERFECT/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

In 1987, after Kristin got out of rehab, she found out that her brother Mark and Pam were taking her to court to get custody of her 12-year-old son Sam. When they went to court in July, Mark was given temporary custody of Sam and Kristin was told to stay away from her brother's place and anywhere Pam was working, like 200 yards away.

In an increasingly vitriolic trial in August, both sides engaged in defamation. With controversial allegations flying around, Mark finally approached Kristen's lawyer and said, "We don't want to go on. There's been too much blood."

By the end of the day, the family came to an agreement where Kristin would keep custody, Mark could visit, and they all decided to go to family therapy.

So, after graduating from Boston College, Sam started his band H Is Orange. In an interview with Medium in 2016, he mentioned that he and Kristin were super tight and that she was living it up in New Mexico.

As you get older, things that were important aren’t important anymore,” he said. “Problems aren’t problems anymore. You work through them, or you don’t. But for the most part, you hope to. I think we’re in a good way together, and we have a good relationship.

  1. Kate says:

    What a sad story. I remember hearing about this when I was young. People were criticizing Mark Harmon for trying to get his sisters kids and yet it was in the kids best interest

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