Our Hearts Are Broken

Castaways at the White House

Writing this post breaks my heart . . . and I know I speak for the entire Gilligan family when I say that all our lives are richer for having known Russell Johnson and all our hearts are heavy at his passing.

The first time I walked onto the sound stage of the 2-hour television movie “The Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” I was welcomed with open arms by every member of the Gilligan cast. Being made to feel like one of the family from the very first moment meant the world to me. I love the Schwartz family, every single one of them, and when it comes to Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson . . . . well, they have remained two of my closest friends for the last 36 years.

On the morning of January 16th, we all lost a friend. Russell Johnson was truly a man among men, the finest of human beings, a GENTLEman in every sense of the word. Russell Johnson was a man of honor, and in my book, there is no higher praise than that.

When Bob passed away, RJ and his wife Constance were there for me every step of the way, calling me daily, letting me cry, sharing their memories of ‘Bobby’, hoping to hear a smile in my voice. And, yes, the castaways were the only people on earth who were allowed to call Bob Denver, Bobby. I don’t think I could have survived my loss without them, and I still treasure the magnificent wisteria tree they sent me to plant in Bob’s memory.

Even though the world will remember him as the Professor, Russell was so much more. Part of the greatest generation, Russ was a WWII hero, shot down and badly injured in the South Pacific, yet when you mentioned his service, he would tell you quietly that ‘I really didn’t do anything that special’. A man of honor. His friends will remember him as a shining example of that honor.

His family will have decades of memories to hold close in their hearts. His daughter Kimberly will remember her dad in a way none of the rest of us can because only she was his little girl. His wife Connie, whom I adore, will remember him as the love of her life and the best husband any woman could ask for, the same way I remember Bob. Having known Russell and Connie for 36 years, I can tell you their love story was one of those once-in-a-lifetime romances, the kind every little girl dreams she’ll have one day. Connie grew up and found her prince.

As for me, I’ll remember RJ as one of Bob’s dearest, lifelong friends and certainly one of mine . . . he was family. I’ll remember the respect Bob and Russ had for each other and how they could make each other laugh in that special ‘we’ve been stuck on this damned island together for the last 50 years. Nothin’s gonna break that bond’.

So . . . during this saddest of times, my greatest hope is that Russ and Bob are indeed together again, basking in the tropical sunshine, maybe having a pina colada or two, sharing their ‘war’ stories with Natalie, Jim and Sherwood. I know one thing for sure . . . with Sherwood creating, writing and directing these four incredible talents, the entertainment in heaven just went up a notch!

R.I.P. Russell.

To Connie, Kimberly and Courtney, my love and prayers to you. Please know I’m here if you need me.

All my love and more, Dreama