Mark Harmon has been a familiar face on TV for more than 50 years. Mark is best known for playing special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS” for 18 full seasons. He has also been on a lot of other popular TV shows. Some of these shows are “The West Wing,” “St. Elsewhere,” and “JAG,” which is where his character from “NCIS” was first seen.
Mark was born into the show business. Mark is the son of football player Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox. He also has two sisters, Kristin Nelson (formerly Harmon) and Kelly Harmon. Kelly is a model and actress, and Kristin was an actress and painter.
Kristin, who died of a heart attack in 2018, had a hard life, with problems with her marriage, drug abuse, and even being cut off from one of her children. Mark did a lot to try to get his sister’s help, and when she couldn’t take care of her youngest son properly, he was given temporary custody of him. Let’s look at Kristin’s sad life story and how Mark helped her through it all.
Kristin is the oldest of the Harmon children. She was born on June 25, 1945. Kristin first met Ricky Nelson, the man who would later become her husband, when she was 12 years old. Ricky was on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” with his parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, who were also stars.
A few years later, in 1963, when she was 17 and he was 23, Ricky and Kristin got married. Six months after that, Kristin had Tracy, their first child.
Ricky was already a teen idol at this point, and after they got married, Kristin started to appear on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” which got her acting career off the ground. But even though they were famous, Gunnar, Matthew, and Sam, the couple’s other three children, didn’t stop having more kids.
Kristin continued to act after “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” ended in 1966. She was in “The Resurrection of Broncho Billy,” a short film that won an Academy Award, and the TV show “Adam-12,” among other things.
But things started to go wrong in her personal life. At this point, Ricky was a real rock star, and the two of them started to get too drunk for their own good. In a 1987 interview with People, Kristin said:
“We were hippie rock n’ rollers. All those years, we did what everyone else did.”
Kristin also said, “At first, we were both in it together, but after a while, we were both totally messed up.” In the same interview, she said more:
“For a while, he went to therapy with me, but then he stopped showing up. I tried to tell my family that there is a drug problem here and that we all need to do something about it. But they denied that anything was wrong.”
The problems hurt not only their health but also their relationship with each other and their family. Kristin and the kids moved out of their house in 1977 after Kristin caught Ricky cheating on her with two Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders. Ricky later said that Kristin set him up so that she could get custody of the kids.
“Help me! … I want to leave. I can no longer take it. My mom reminds me of a hill. First, she rises, then she falls.”
Mark promised to help his nephew even though he wasn’t sure if Kristin was drunk. A few days later, the actor from “NCIS” found his sister shopping for groceries, and she was very drunk. Soon after that, he was able to get her to go to rehab. In the same interview, Kristin said:
“My brother was the only one who could have persuaded me to do this because I trusted him. A voice inside me said, “Let someone help you for once in your life.”
But Sam wanted to be with his uncle, so Kristin and Mark got into a fight over who would take care of Sam. Mark was given temporary custody of Sam by the judge while the case brought out a lot of the family’s dirty laundry. Mark eventually dropped the charges, and Kristin got Sam back. She, Sam, and Mark all had to go to counseling, though.
Kristin and Sam’s relationship started to get better, and Kristin talked about how they worked things out in an interview two years before she passed away. She told me:
“As you get older, things that were important to you when you were young become less important. Problems aren’t problems anymore. Either you deal with them or you don’t. But most of the time, you hope to. I think we’re on the right track and that we get along well.”
Kristin married TV producer and director Mark Tinker a year after the custody battle for Sam got a lot of attention. Before they split up in 2000, they were married for 12 years.
Kristin spent most of her last 30 years out of the public eye. Then, on April 27, 2018, she had a heart attack that killed her. Tracy, her daughter, wrote about the news on her Facebook page:
“Last night, my mother, Kristin Harmon Nelson, passed away suddenly and out of the blue. We welcome love and light.”
Kristin’s legacy lives on in her children, who all went into the entertainment business like the rest of their family. Tracy is an actress, and Gunnar and Matthew started the band Nelson with two other friends. Sam, too, is a musician, and he started the band H Is Orange. Mark and Kelly, her brother and sister, also keep the family ties going.
Even though Kristin’s life was hard, she was able to find peace after she got clean. Kristin’s memory lives on because her family loved her and stuck by her even when things were hard.