Melissa Gilbert reveals her deep dark secret

Not everyone who enters show business at a young age continues in the industry once they reach a certain age. While Melissa Gilbert continued acting after her days on Little House on the Prairie, her brother Jonathan Gilbert decided to take an entirely different career path.

He also made another decision that caused Melissa’s heart to ache for their mother.

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Melissa, who was born May 8, 1964, and Jonathan, who was born April 28, 1967, were both adopted by actors Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane.

The two children took up acting like their parents. Melissa began by starring in commercials before she landed the coveted role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie. Jonathan also got a part on the show. He played Willlie Oleson, Nellie’s brother.

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From 1974 to 1982, the siblings starred in the successful Western historical drama. And while things were going great for both of them on TV, their home life was another story.

A few years after the brother and sister found success with Little House on the Prairie, their parents got a divorce.

When she was 11 years old her father died. At the time she was told he died as the result of a stroke, but decades later she learned the truth.

“I was 45 when I found out that my father had taken his own life,” she told CBS Sunday Morning in 2020. “Yeah, that was a very deeply-hidden secret from pretty much everybody in my life.”

Her mother remarried and Crane and Melissa’s stepfather, Harold Abeles, had a child named Sara together.

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As Little House on the Prairie wrapped up, Melissa wanted to continue working in the industry, but her brother had other ideas.

He wanted to try something drastically new.

“My brother, Jonathan, completely cut himself off from the family,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale: A Memoir. “He turned eighteen and simply disappeared.”

Melissa wrote her brother would “turn up a couple of times over several years,” she had only seen him “three time” in 20 years.

“Surprisingly, I am at peace with it. Though my heart does ache for my mother.”

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Reportedly, Jonathan cut his family off when he was a young adult and pursued a college education. He earned an MBA in finance, according to CNN, and began working as a stockbroker in New York City.

While their brother left the industry and their family, Melissa and her sister Sara stayed in the entertainment business. Sara began her acting career first in a commercial for Kool-Aid then as Darlene Conner on Roseanne. She has continued remained active in the industry ever since.

Meanwhile her big sister Melissa continued acting and appearing in both TV shows and films until 2019. She also competed on Dancing with the Stars, authored a children’s book and a cookbook, and ran for U.S. Congress.

Personally, it’s hard to imagine cutting off my family, but everyone has their reasons. Show business isn’t for everyone so I respect those who leave before they’re overwhelmed.

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