‘Wheel of Fortune’: How Fans Helped Vanna White Cope With Her Fiancé’s Tragic 1986 Death

by Halle Ames
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Unfortunately, Vanna White’s life isn’t all ball gowns and glam. She revealed how Wheel of Fortune fans helped her get through her fiancé’s death.

Vanna White landed the coveted role of Wheel of Fortune co-host in 1982. Shortly after rising to fame, she began dating “Young and the Restless” actor John Gibson. And the two eventually got engaged. However, tragedy struck in 1986 when John Gibson’s airplane crashed while flying outside Van Nuys Airport near Los Angeles. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2019, Vanna White opened up about how fans helped her get through her dark time.

“It was May 17, 1986,” White recalled. “The second I heard about it, I fell to my knees. It was just devastating.”

Vanna White credited her healing partly to the outpouring of love from Wheel of Fortune fans. Many of them related to the pain she was feeling.

“I heard from so many people who had shared the same experience of losing someone instantly in an accident, and that really helped me,” said White. “I didn’t feel like I was alone. Because when something like that happens, you immediately think you’re the only one.”

In January, she told ET Canada how hard it was to be in the public eye while also grieving.

“It was obviously very hard. It’s so hard to lose someone instantly like that and be in the public eye. You want to mourn yourself,” she recalled. “But I have to say there were so many people that reached out to me, fans that shared their experiences. So, I didn’t feel alone. I felt loved and I felt protected. But the fans that reached out and just all of America that reached out made it a little bit easier if that’s possible.”

Vanna White’s Resilience

Vanna White picked up her pieces and fell in love once again. By 1990, Vanna married George Santo Pietro. Another misfortune struck when Vanna became pregnant for the first time. She even made the public baby announcement on the show with the puzzle reading “Vanna’s Pregnant.” A week later, she suffered a miscarriage.

“I so wanted to be pregnant and have a baby. So, then when I finally got pregnant, I wanted to tell the world immediately.”

The couple eventually had two children together but ultimately divorced in 2002.

“Obviously, I lost the baby, which was devastating after announcing it. The good news is I was able to get pregnant again and had two beautiful, healthy children,” said White. “But losing a child — there’s nothing good about that.”

The Wheel of Fortune cover girl later found herself with a ring on her finger once again in 2006 to Michael Kaye, but they never made it down the aisle. Nowadays, Vanna White has skipped the formalities associated with marriage and has been dating her boyfriend, John Donaldson, since 2012.

“He feels like a fiancé. He feels like a husband,” White said. “We’ve been together a long time. I’d call him my husband.”

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