Mark Harmon’s sister Kristin was a renowned painter whose life changed when she met and married superstar musician Ricky Nelson.
While “NCIS” star Mark Harmon is very popular among fans of his action series, the actor is regarded as one of the more laid-back Hollywood stars. The talented actor is rarely in the news for anything other than his movie projects or his life as a family man. However, back in the 1980’s Mark, a rising star in the industry, dominated headlines for a custody battle with his sister Kristin Harmon.
In contrast to Mark’s solemn celebrity life, Kristin was a well-known controversial figure in the industry. The talented painter was in the news frequently for various reasons, including her marriage and her battle with substance abuse. However, here is all the inside scoop you need to know about Mark Harmon’s infamous sister Kristin.
Kristin Harmon’s Early Life
Kristin was the older sister of Mark and the first daughter of American football star, Military pilot, and Hollywood actor Tom Harmon. She was born June 25, 1945, in Burbank, California, and attended Marymount High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Bel Air. Kristin schooled alongside other children of celebrities, including Mia Farrow, who was one of her closest school friends.
Kristin started painting when she was seventeen years old. Over time she honed her skills, and in 1967, she held a solo show of her crude paintings, reminiscent of American folk artist Grandma Moses. She established a reputation for herself with her vividly colorful paintings, which were famous among celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy, Dwight Yoakam, and her friend Mia Farrow.
Meeting and Marrying Ricky Nelson
Kristin was 12 years old when she met Ricky Nelson, the son of Hollywood superstar couples Ozzie and Harriet. She also starred alongside his parents in their famous sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” Kristin and Ricky fell in love not long after they met, and they began dating in 1961 on Christmas Day. Kristin was 16 years old at the time, and Ricky was 21 years old.
The duo announced their engagement a year later, and since their families were longtime friends, the two shared many traits. Still, the duo had to wait till April 20, 1963, before they exchanged marital vows at Los Angeles’ St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church. Kristin, 18 years old, was already pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Six months after their nuptials, on October 25, 1963, the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Tracy at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. Four years later, the duo welcomed twin sons Gunnar and Mathew. Their fourth child, Sam Hilliard Nelson, was born on August 29, 1974.
Kristin and Ricky’s Tumutlous Marriage
Kristin and Ricky led a very conservative family life during the early stages of their marriage. But, sadly, that changed as time progressed when the couple adopted a lifestyle of partying. Speaking about their lifestyle switch in an interview with PEOPLE in 1987, Kristin noted:
Kristin and Ricky led an opulent lifestyle embarking on lengthy tours, partying, and abusing alcohol and drugs. However, out of concern for their children, Kristin requested they spend more time at home with their kids. The couple went into therapy, but Ricky stopped coming shortly after.
In 1980 when Kristin noticed Ricky wouldn’t change, she filed for divorce and was temporarily granted custody of the children and spousal support. Their divorce was later finalized in 1982. However, during this time, Kristin also relapsed and started drinking and using drugs again.
Going Through Rehab and Filling a Custody Case With Mark Harmon
Kristin’s substance abuse continued as time progressed, and she couldn’t paint. Sadly things got worse for her when Ricky, his fiancée Helen Blair and five members of his road company, died in a plane crash in 1985. Thankfully, around this time, Mark stepped in and advised his sister to sign herself into rehab. Speaking about the incident, Kristin stated:
However, shortly after Kristin left rehab in 1987, Mark and his wife Pam took her to court to seek custody of her youngest son, Sam. At the end of the hearing in July of that year, Mark and Pam obtained temporary custody of Sam, and Kristin was ordered to stay 200 yards away from the family.
Nevertheless, the custody hearing became more toxic as time passed, and both parties threw multiple accusations at each other. Finally, Mark and his wife gave in and worked out an agreement with Kristin, who retained custody rights. Meanwhile, Mark received visiting rights, and Kristin, Sam, and Mark agreed to enter family therapy.
Kristin Died at Seventy-Two
After the custody hearings, Kristin’s relationship with Mark and her children got better. Speaking about how their relationship improved, her youngest son Sam told Medium in 2016:
Sadly, on May 1, 2018, Kristin’s daughter Tracy posted a status update on Facebook confirming that her mother had passed away. The late painter died at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, due to a sudden heart attack. She was 72 years old and had undoubtedly lived a dramatic life.