‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert’s Meaningful Last Visit with Michael Landon Before His Death

by Evan Reier

After years and years of being out of touch with her “TV dad,” Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert eventually received closure.

It’s hard enough to keep up with friends, family and coworkers, but the life of a celebrity can only make it more difficult. The never-ending rollercoaster of acting saw Gilbert take her talents in many directions.

After Little House on the Prairie ended in 1984, the cast went in several directions. Gilbert went on to work on a plethora of television films. Michael Landon took on his last major role on Highway to Heaven, starring on the show from 1984 to 1989.

However, just a couple years after, Landon was diagnosed with an inoperable and terminal form of pancreatic cancer. It was a tragic development for the 54-year-old, who had accomplished so much and still seemed like he had more art to make.

Landon and the Little House on the Prairie cast had long gone their separate ways, but most paused their schedules. This included Gilbert, who was able to secure a meeting with Landon shortly before his death.

Little House on the Prairie Star Melissa Gilbert Opens up on Michael Landon Meeting

It was much-needed for the two. When Gilbert talked to the Television Academy Foundation in 2011, she detailed how they seemed to always miss each other.

“Our social connection had definitely severed at that point,” Gilbert started. “But we reconnected at his daughter Leslie’s wedding and were actually making plans to get together.”

“We finally were going to get together and it was right before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then it just all happened so fast,” she continued. “So no, we didn’t see or talk to each other as often as we could have but we did have a really significant and important time together — it turned out to be exactly a week before he died, I went out to see him.”

One can only imagine how scary the news must have been. After attempting to properly reconnect, Gilbert had to wait and figure out what came next. Unfortunately, that was the realization that Landon did not have long.

Melissa Gilbert Nearly Backed Out

The pair finally were able to convene, and Gilbert expressed how difficult it was.

“I could tell that he was done,” Gilbert said. “He’d suffered a lot with a very brave face…Seeing him unable to get up off the couch was hard. But I’m really glad I did it. I almost chickened out at the last minute and then I thought, ‘You’d better go do this.’”

After getting herself together and mentally prepared, the two finally talked and reflected on their lives.

“We spent the day out there and he and I had some time to be alone, which was very important for both of us,” Gilbert said. “And gave us a chance to say a lot of things that we hadn’t ever really said to each other… “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him … I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to name one of my sons after him, so I hear his name every day.”