AARP Eye Center
The excellent and moving new HBO documentary Being Mary Tyler Moore, about the fascinating life and game-changing work of the TV star who died in 2017 at age 80, was coproduced by her widower, S. Robert Levine, 68, who also appears in it. He tells AARP the inside story of Moore’s very public life.
Many fans of her shows with Dick Van Dyke and Ed Asner don’t realize that Moore had an important parallel career — she was a longtime advocate for diabetics, right?
Mary was international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for over 30 years. She helped raise billions for research and elevated the understanding of the community and Congress. The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative carries on her legacy, to accelerate the development of new strategies for diabetic retinal disease.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
And she had type 1 diabetes herself.
She was nearly blind — diabetes really stole her joy. She trained with treadmills and ballet to push through the pain of peripheral vascular disease. She had severe neuropathy, painful but also with loss of sensation, so she sometimes wouldn’t be able to figure out where she was in space.
When did it strike?
From age 50. When she got the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, she was escorted out to the podium in advance of the lights coming up because she was nearly blind and could not walk across the stage safely on her own. She never wanted to stop — that was who she was. Her story is about overcoming challenges and obstacles.
You can turn the world on with your smile, even if fate doesn’t always smile on you.
Exactly. You have to learn, to have resilience, that sense of yourself, that purpose. She was always facing the world with a smile, even though she was a tough fighter underneath.