Mary Tyler Moore hid her blindness caused by type 1 diabetes for over 30 years before her death, and underwent treatment for retinal photocoagulation therapy in the 1980s. Her sight deteriorated progressively over time despite the treatment and she was no longer able to walk safely, read or be independent. Her widower, Dr. Robert Levine, established the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative to combat diabetic retinal illness after her death.
Mary Tyler Moore concealed her blindness for decades due to complications from type 1 diabetes, and her vision loss eventually impacted her ability to work and read.
Mary Tyler Moore Concealed Her Vision Loss from the Public
Mary Tyler Moore, the sitcom legend, suffered from significant visual loss for about 30 years before she passed away. Her widower, Dr. Robert Levine, reveals that Moore was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only 34 years old. Her blindness stemmed from diabetes, and she had been losing her sight for decades before her death.
According to Levine, Moore underwent “retinal photocoagulation therapy” in the late 1980s, which burnt out her peripheral retina to preserve the central retina. The therapy allowed her to continue reading and working, but it resulted in tunnel vision where she couldn’t see below her waist. Over time, her condition worsened to the point where she required off-camera assistance to reach the podium when she received a SAG award in 2012.
Levine laments that his late wife’s joy was robbed from her since she couldn’t walk safely across the stage, read, and be autonomous and independent. Despite the difficulties she faced in her later years, Moore remained an advocate for diabetes research, which led to her husband’s establishment of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative to combat diabetic retinal illness after her death.
Mary Tyler Moore Remains an Icon
Mary Tyler Moore was best known for her portrayal of a happily single, working woman, Mary Richards, on her eponymous ’70s sitcom. Her incredible career began when she played Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” where she famously wore pants and flat shoes, bucking tradition.
While Moore enjoyed a successful career, she also grappled with several tragedies in her personal life. Her sister, Elizabeth, died by suicide in 1978, and her only child, Richie, died from a self-inflicted gunshot at the age of 24. The death of her son came mere weeks after her film “Ordinary People” premiered, where she portrayed an emotionally distant mother barely coping with her son’s suicide.
Despite the heartache Moore endured, she found comfort and happiness with her third husband, Levine, whom she met when he was treating her mother. They remained married for over 30 years until her death in 2017.
The recently released HBO documentary “Being Mary Tyler Moore” details her incredible life and achievements. It also explores her personal struggles and how she overcame them and became an ardent activist for juvenile diabetes.