EXCLUSIVE: Dreama Denver, the wife of the late Bob Denver, who famously portrayed Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island,” is remembering her dear friend Dawn Wells, who died on Wednesday of COVID-19 related causes.
Denver and Wells’ friendship spanned four decades. The two were close over the years, as Wells played Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island” opposite Bob, who died in 2005.
Wells, a Reno native, who represented Nevada in the Miss America pageant in 1959 before taking on the iconic television role in the castaway series, died in Los Angeles of COVID-19-related causes Wednesday morning, according to her publicist. She was 82.
Denver noted that her bond with Wells only strengthened over time, with the pair becoming particularly close in recent years. Part of Wells’ trips over the years included stops at Dreama’s home in West Virginia, where she helped to support the Denver Foundation. Wells’ last visit there came in February 2019, where “America’s Sweetheart” and Denver served as co-master of ceremonies. The event helped raise fund for the Denver Foundation’s “Always Free Honor Flight” on behalf of veterans.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Denver recalled her favorite memories spent with Wells, the last time they spoke, and how America’s Sweetheart was reacted to the fame the iconic castaway series brought her.
Fox News: What is one of your favorite memories with Dawn Wells over the many years you spent together?
Dreama Denver: Every memory is pretty special, but I think our time together on the road is what stands out for me. Often, we shared a room and sat up most of the night talking “girl talk.” In 2015, we did a book tour in Missouri and visited her alma mater, Stephens College. To see the welcome she received, to feel the love directed at her for her support of Stephens, was really special.
Fox News: You’ve noted that your bond with Dawn became stronger over time. How so? And how did the two of you keep in touch?
Denver: As we lost cast members, the remaining crew became closer. First, Jim, Natalie and Alan, then many years later, Bob and more recently Russell. After Bob’s death, I stepped in to represent him at public appearances and that’s when Dawn and I hit the road together as Mary Ann and Mrs. Gilligan. We were quite the duo and fans seemed to enjoy the two of us together. Over the last 15 years, our appearances together were how we stayed in touch, and during the months between, there was always the phone. LONG conversations!
Fox News: Dawn is most known for her iconic role on “Gilligan’s Island” opposite your husband, Bob Denver. Did she ever reflect on her fame from the role?
Denver: Dawn loved and was forever grateful for “Gilligan’s Island” and the fame it brought her. She never once complained about being known for the show. As a matter of fact, she was very protective of Mary Ann, understanding that her character was a role model for young girls everywhere, which made her treat Mary Ann with a lot of TLC. There was so much of Dawn in that character. Obviously, the sweet nature, the physical beauty (the woman never aged) and the nurturing quality of Mary Ann.
Dawn was a nurturer to family, friends, and fans. She was always kind and generous with her time. Also, she never failed to be the first to step up in support of a cause she believed in. She did that for me and my work with the Denver Foundation and Always Free Honor Flight. I would need her. She would come. That’s who she was.
Fox News: When was the last time you saw/spoke to Dawn? How was she feeling?
Denver: The last time I saw Dawn was February 2019 when she came to West Virginia to cohost a Denver Foundation Fundraiser with me. She loved supporting our veterans, so when I needed her for my “Valentines for Veterans” concert, she was there. She stayed at my house and we were having so much fun she extended her trip for an extra two days, which gave us five uninterrupted days together. In light of 2020 and our inability to see each other for this entire year, I’m so thankful we had this last visit, this final memory. We last spoke on her 82nd birthday in October and she was in great spirits. The plan was to touch base again in January to celebrate the fact that 2020 was finally over. Sadly, we never got that chance.
Fox News: Is there anything about Dawn that stuck out to you that fans may not already know?
Denver: Two things that may not be common knowledge – Dawn beat out Raquel Welch for the part of Mary Ann, something that never ceased to amaze her. And, of course, she and the rest of the cast were the only people on earth who called Bob, Bobby. Every time we talked about him, she talked about how much she loved our Bobby.
Wells starred as the unapologetic “good girl” who was stranded on an island with six other castaways. “Gilligan’s Island” ran from 1964 to 1967 – for three seasons.
“There is so much more to Dawn Wells” than the “Gilligan’s Island” character that brought her fame, her rep said in a statement.
Before “Gilligan’s Island,” Wells had early TV roles on shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick” and “Bonanza.” Throughout her career, she starred in over 150 shows and seven motion pictures such as “Winterhawk,” “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” and “Super Sucker.” She also appeared in more than 60 theatrical productions.
In 2014, Wells published the humorous memoir “What Would Mary Ann Do?”. Most recently, Wells starred in the 2017 web series “Life Interrupted,” where she played fellow TV icon Alison Arngrim’s mother to rave reviews.
Outside of her life on-screen, she was also a teacher and motivational speaker, her publicist said.
Following the news of Wells’ passing, her “Gilligan’s Island” co-star Tina Louise spoke out. Louise, 86, is the only remaining original cast member still living. Louise portrayed the glitzy Ginger Grant.
“I will always remember her kindness to me,” Louise said. “We shared in creating a cultural landmark that has continued to bring comfort and smiles to people during this difficult time. I hope that people will remember her the way that I do – always with a smile on her face.”
“Gilligan’s Island” continues to be screened across the world in more than 30 languages. In addition to Louise, Wells and Denver, it featured Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as wealthy passengers Thurston and Lovey Howell, and Russell Johnson as the Professor.