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The marriage foundered and in 1963 Arness sought a divorce and custody of the three children, which he was granted. He tried to guard them from the spotlight.

“The kids don’t really have any part of my television life,” he once remarked. “Fortunately, there aren’t many times when show business intrudes on our family existence.”

The emotionally troubled Virginia Arness attempted suicide twice, in 1959 and in 1960. In 1975, Jenny Arness died of an apparently deliberate drug overdose. Two years later, an overdose that police deemed accidental killed her mother.

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AP Television Writer David Bauder and Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York, and Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this story.