When their eyes met, she knew.
It was a chance of a lifetime: sharing the theater stage with the legendary Bob Denver. Dreama Peery was cast as the co-star in “Play It Again, Sam” with Bob, whom we all knew and loved as Gilligan. That’s how this amazing story of love, loss, and rebirth begins. On a stage. But, before that, there was an island.
It is rare to run into anyone who doesn’t know the name Gilligan. Nearly all of us can sing at least a line or two of the jolly theme song from that long-running CBS series, “Gilligan’s Island,” about a tiny boat stranded on an island. Many seasons of laughter followed before the crew was finally rescued from their tropical dead-end.
Following Bob’s years on the small screen, his name drew thousands to theaters across the nation. An actress drawn to the same stage for years, Dreama once got a call to stand left to the one and only Bob Denver. Bob was almost 16 years older than Dreama. Their eyes met and a new story began.
After two years of dating, they married. “In the days of 72-hour Hollywood marriages, our union was unique,” states Dreama. “People think of Bob simply as Gilligan, but they didn’t know just how brilliant of a man he was.I met Gilligan, but I fell in love with Bob, his incredible spirit of humanity, and the depth of his soul. At times I often thought he was SO out of my league.” While our marriage didn’t come without substantial challenges, I knew in my heart we were meant to be together. “We were married 28 years. In Hollywood years, that’s 60!”
“I am often asked about our “secret” and explain that there is an intimacy about marriage young people don’t think about. There was never a moment Bob thought I would leave or that I thought he would. 28 years later, I still saw that 42-year-old man I met on that stage. And, when Bob looked at me, he still saw that 27-year-old he fell in love with. That never, ever changed. There’s something beautiful about the tapestry of life to look at that person and know that he has been yours and you have been theirs. That’s missing in today’s relationship.”
Their union produced Colin Osborne Denver, a son born with autism. “I knew everyday Bob and I were meant to have and love Colin.” With a diagnosis like Colin’s, your life as you know it is forever changed. But, we never looked back. Bob and Colin were inseparable. Our years of growth as parents were something that I will cherish.”
On September 2, 2005, America’s beloved Gilligan, Bob Denver passed away from a brave fight against an aggressive form of throat cancer.
After Bob’s death, Dreama sometimes didn’t think she would survive herself. The loneliness was overwhelming. She fell into a severe depression for years and was rarely seen in public. Then cancer knocked at her door, dealing Dreama another blow.
“Honestly, anyone else would have just crumbled. But, I never stopped fighting for me and for those I loved, even when they were no longer here with me. I kept believing all of life’s valley’s were leading me to where I needed to be. And they have. Today, I don’t think about the loss of Bob anymore. Instead, I see the riches from being loved so deeply by my soulmate.”
Today, thirteen years after Bob’ passing, I can still feel the love and honor Dreama has for their incredible union. “Sharing Bob’s last days was such a gift. It is really an honor to be with someone at the end of their life. It was incredibly precious to hold his hand and tell him that I will be ok. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything. It was so intimate to be with him when he took his last breath, knowing that he was so deeply loved.”
Today, Dreama continues to honors Bob’s legacy in several ways. One way is serving our veterans. “Veterans meant so much to Bob. He gave so much of his time honoring the brave servicemen. To honor Bob, this was how I give back.” Each year, cast members from the beloved Gilligan’s Island series join Dreama in West Virginia to give to the Denver Foundation, allowing her to keep her promise to Bob by serving those who have served us. Proceeds benefit the Denver Foundation’s Always Free Honor Flight. Honor Flight was formed in 2011 and has taken hundreds of veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam — free of charge — to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials built in honor of their service. Dreama states there’s no greater experience than to watch those who served — particularly those who fought in World War II — as they enjoy the trip and take in the power of the memorials.
“Bob left me a legacy of love with all his fans,” states Dreama. “I wanted to represent him well. I want people to remember him as the smart, brilliant, loving man he was. I want people to know his entire story and how, as a Hollywood star, he gave back to his community.
I asked Dreama about her secret to life. These days, as she dances “singularly rather than plurally” (her words) she says, “Each year I choose a word to take with me into the new year. I encourage everyone to do so. Take the time to chose a word, make that your priority for an entire year, and watch the changes that happen!
One year, my chosen word was gratitude. As I gave thanks through the months, it seemed like I had more and more to be grateful for. The next year, it was faith. That year was incredibly special for me: I not only found Christ, but I learned that true faith is so much deeper than the simple word.
Because of gratitude and faith, I now understand and appreciate why I went through all my trials. My courage came from God and that courage continues in everything I do today. My angels are walking with me every step of the way.
Concluding my interview, I found myself in tears. They were not sad tears, but tears of gratitude and inspiration from my hour with this incredible lady. She made me realize how rare and precious true love is.
Soon after our goodbyes, I found myself searching the TV for reruns of Gilligan’s Island for a dose of innocent comedy. Goodnight Gilligan. Sleep well on your heavenly island. Thank you for the laughs and your caring heart.
And to you, Ms. Gilligan, thank you for your love and light. Thank you for your heart and deep commitment to the legacy of a husband who honored and cherished you. You have reminded us that true love is still alive and well and eternal. Thank you for your gracious lessons of gratitude and faith from the other side of the Island.
Note: “Gilligan’s Dreams” is available for purchase at Amazon.com