Mary Tyler Moore: “Little Ritchie” remembers his “other mother”

Larry Mathews of the Santa Clarita Valley played Mary Tyler Moore's son Richie on the 60's TV sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show." (Dan Watson/The Signal)

When she played Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke” sitcom TV show, Mary Tyler Moore was a kind, caring and confident woman.

She brought the same character to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 70s, when she played Mary Richards working in a TV newsroom with actor Ed Asner.

But what’s most important to Larry Mathews – who most of America remembers as Laura Petrie’s little son Ritchie – was that she was kind, caring and confident off set and in real life.

“Not too long ago, she turned to my real mom and said ‘You have an amazing son. I am so proud of him and you,” Matthews told The Signal Thursday.

Larry Mathews in 1961 as the son of Mary Tyler Moore’s character on The 60’s sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Photo courtesy IMDB

Mary Tyler Moore, who as Mary Richards became the touchstone for single working women, died Wednesday at age 80 after a long battle with diabetes.

A husband and kids, long the stock TV recipe for female contentment, were absent from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Moore gained fame in the 1960s as frazzled Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show, and went on to win seven Emmy Awards over the years.

“I am so blessed,” Mathews said of his relationship with the woman who became the acting icon and example for so many women in North America a half century ago.

“She was such a huge important part of my life,” he said. “She was like another mother to me and a big sister rolled into one.

“And, as I grew older I watched her become this amazing person.  She was so professional and gave such an amazing contribution to our business,” he said. “I became a fan too.”

Mathews, who lives in Castaic and works in the film industry, running a post-production business in Burbank, said he and Moore would cross paths every now and then.

In 2004, he and Moore and the rest of the Dick Van Dyke cast met for a reunion.

“When everyone was at the table, everyone dropped into their characters,” he said. “It was fun and we had fun.”

Mathews said he became friends with Moore’s son, also named Richie, just a couple of years younger than himself.

Moore’s only child, Richard, who’d had trouble in school and with drugs, accidentally fatally shot himself at 24.

“He would come on the set and I got to know him,” he said. The two went on the same high school trip to Europe, he said.

And, although Moore lived on the east coast, he never stopped feeling as if he was part of her family.

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