Inside Mary Tyler Moore's personal tragedy when her only child died at 24 years old

Mary Tyler Moore was a beloved Golden Globe-winning actress, a breakthrough comedian, a smart producers, a wife ... and a mother.

Moore was married for the first time at just 18 years old, to her next door neighbor, Richard Carleton Meeker, in 1955, and within weeks of their wedding she became pregnant. The young bride gave birth to her first, and only, child at 19 years old when she welcomed son, Richie Meeker.

Moore's marriage to Meeker ended in 1961, and she married Grant Tinker, a CBS executive, the following year. At the time, her career was taking off as she scored a role opposite Dick Van Dyke on "The Dick Van Dyke" show.

Of being a young mother, she once said, "If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have pursued a career while I had a little boy to care for," she writes. "My heart breaks when I think of the times missed, times with him. How predictable that without awareness I emulated my mother's behavior towards me."

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Sadly the time with her son ended way too quickly. When Richie was just 24 years old, he accidentally shot and killed himself when a gun he was cleaning went off and he suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Following his death, rumors swirled that he had committed suicide. Moore was forced to address the rumors in the press.

"Unfortunately, there were terrible rumors that Richie killed himself, but it was an accident," she told the National Ledger. "He was a gun collector, was cleaning guns, and one of them went off and shot him in the head."

At the time, Meeker's roommate told The Washington Post, "He was loading and unloading the short-barreled gun when it went off...It was awful. He must have pulled the trigger. There was a big bang and he fell on the bed."

Her son was working at CBS at the time as a messenger and was also a student at USC.

The same year, Moore starred in "Ordinary People," a movie in which she plays a woman who loses her son in an accident and whose other son attempts suicide. Her work on the film earned her an Academy Award nomination.

The time was reportedly one of the hardest in her life.

PHOTOS: Mary Tyler Moore through the years

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