Thirty years ago today (July 1) beloved television star Michael Landon passed away. It was pancreatic cancer that claimed the actor’s life when he was only 54 years old.
On the 30th anniversary of his death in 1991, one of Landon’s children is urging people to take their health seriously. That child is his daughter, Leslie Landon Matthews. She talked about her famous father, who was the star of “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie,” with PEOPLE.
Luckily, Michael Landon lived long enough to attend Leslie’s wedding. He even had the chance to give her away. Leslie married only a few months before her father’s death. Throughout her life, Leslie viewed her father as a man who could do it all.
“We just felt like he was a superman. He was bigger than life,” Leslie, who is now 58 years old, said.
Also a few months before he passed away on July 1, 1991, Michael Landon shared details about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis with the world during April 1991. This left an impression on his daughter.
“He definitely showed his vulnerable side in announcing this illness, but he wanted to stay as hopeful as possible that he could beat it,” Leslie said. “I think the part that probably was surprising to all of us was how quickly we saw his health deteriorate.”
Leslie Landon Matthews is one of Michael Landon’s nine children.
Leslie Landon Matthews Encourages People to Focus on Their Health, Says Michael Landon Failed to Do So
Having seen how cancer quickly took her famous father’s life, Leslie Landon Matthews is encouraging others to make their health a priority. She also said her father, Michael Landon, did not make his health a priority.
“When my dad didn’t feel good — if something didn’t feel right — he tended to ignore it, hoping that it would go away,” Leslie said. “… He was a busy man burning the candle at both ends. I think his own health got put on the back burner.”
According to Leslie, she and her siblings have learned from their father’s mistakes. She said they focus more on their health, regardless of how busy they are. As an example, she shared details about a health scare her brother, Chris, recently experienced.
It was during a physical that Chris learned that enzymes in his liver were high. He was urged by his doctor to have a scan. Even though he was about to go to New Orleans to film a movie, he agreed. Turns out, this was a very wise decision.
“He made the time for it and got a scan and ended up having a 2.5 cm tumor on his kidney,” Leslie said.
The tumor was removed and Chris recovered. “My brother is already back to working on his movie,” Leslie added.
“Because we knew how my dad was with his own health, we kids do the opposite. We’re like, ‘Something doesn’t seem right, let’s look into it.’ Information is power and it allows you to make choices about your health when you know what you’re dealing with. Fear tends to paralyze people,” Leslie said.
She also took time to look back at what her father left behind.
“I feel like the takeaway was loving one another and accepting people for who they are …” Leslie said.