This Girl Became a Successful Child Star after Bio Parents Gave Her up to Family Who Had ‘No Plans’ to Adopt

Melissa Gilbert, famous for her role as Laura “Half-Pint” Ingalls Wilder on “Little House on the Prairie,” has a dramatic life story. Born on May 8, 1964, at The French Hospital in Los Angeles, she was adopted by Barbara Crane and Paul Gilbert just 24 hours later. Her adoptive parents, both in the entertainment industry, also adopted her younger brother, Jonathan.

Melissa’s adoption story was complex and filled with secrets. Her adoptive parents told her that her biological parents were a prima ballerina and a Rhodes Scholar. The truth, which Melissa discovered later, was that her birth mother, Kathy Wood, was a dancer, and her father, David Darlington, was a sign painter and stock car racer. Both were married to other people and had children from previous relationships when they decided they couldn’t afford to keep her.

Her adoptive father, Paul, passed away in 1976, initially believed to have died from a stroke. However, at age 45, Melissa learned that he had committed suicide due to extreme pain from injuries sustained during World War II. This revelation deeply affected her, but she has since honored his memory by advocating for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

Melissa’s adoptive parents had not planned to adopt her; it was a spur-of-the-moment decision after a call informed them of her availability. This spontaneous decision led to a loving but secretive family dynamic.

Mellissa Gilbert (Photo by Betty Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

Despite the tumultuous early years, Melissa has found peace and happiness. She married her third husband, Timothy Busfield, in a private ceremony in 2013. Together, they enjoy a quiet life in a 14-acre Catskill Mountain cottage in New York. Melissa’s journey from an abandoned child to a beloved actress and advocate is a testament to her resilience and strength.

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