The Academy Award-winning actress Shelley Winters spent her entire life trying to find her soulmate, and according to her close friend Sally Kirkland, she found him Gerry DeFord.
On the day before she died in January of 2006, Winters married her companion of 20 years in a ceremony officiated by her friend, an ordained minister in the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. The ceremony reportedly took place while Winters, 85, was on her deathbed.
“Shelley was crying for joy,” Kirkland told Closer Weekly of the ceremony. “I can’t remember if there were rings or not. All I know is that she was happy.”
Winters enjoyed a decades-long career in Hollywood, winning two Oscars along the way. In her two autobiographies, Winters recounted having affairs with stars like Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable.
“[Shelley] told me stories about how [she and Marilyn Monroe] would make up lists of all the men they wanted to date,” said Kirkland, who alleged that Winters and Monroe were once roommates living in a “tiny apartment” in Hollywood where they would “take turns” bringing men home.
“Marilyn said she wanted to date Albert Schweitzer,” said Kirkland. “[She loved] all the intellectuals. Shelley wanted to date all the Italian hunks.”
While Winters was married and divorced three times, it was DeFord who was the love of her life.
“She loved Gerry because he made her laugh and he would do anything for her,” said Kirkland. “They might not have been having sex every night, but he was the love of her life.”
Kirkland previously told Closer Weekly that Winters was very proud of her accomplishments in life.
“Shelley always worked for her own livelihood,” Kirkland said at the time. “So much of what she taught me was about being fiercely independent.”
Kirkland also said that in her final years, Winters loved watching her old movies when they would play on television.
“She was delighted to see her legacy was relevant, right up to the end,” said Kirkland. “Shelley was so happy. She was just like a little child.”
Winters is survived by her daughter, who became a successful doctor.