Tragic Details About The Price Is Right's Bob Barker

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The late game show host Bob Barker cemented his name in small screen history books with a career spanning five decades and some change. Barker began hosting "Truth or Consequences" in 1956 and exited the show in 1975, three years after getting started on "The Price Is Right." Barker's eighteen-year-run on "Truth or Consequences" was undoubtedly admirable, but what exactly kept him on "The Price Is Right" for thirty-five years straight?

"The first thing that pops to mind is ... the money, of course!" Barker playfully quipped in an interview with People. The acclaimed television personality quickly remarked that he had an amazing team behind him, putting in effort just as passionately. "I had the pleasure of working with a dedicated and talented cast and crew for 35 great years," Barker told the publication. Having a platform to bring awareness on the care of pets also contributed toward his longevity, he added. 

Sixteen years after Barker retired from "The Price Is Right," he died of natural causes in his California residence. He was 99. As a staple in American homes, Barker brought more smiles than frowns to his audience. His own life was just as dynamic, full of peaks and valleys. Losses that hit hard, health struggles — some life-threatening, and a hard childhood. Keep scrolling to find out the tragic details about Bob Barker.

Bob Barker's father had a fall that 'led to his death'

Bob Barker's father Byron John Barker, who had Sioux ancestry, worked as a power line foreman. The nature of his job meant that the Barker family, including Bob's mother Matilda "Tilly" Kent Tarleton Barker, moved across different states.

One fateful night in Washington changed the course of life as a young Bob and his mother knew it. "There was a problem on a tower, and my father, his men had all gone home, and he wanted to get it straightened out immediately," Bob narrated in a chat with UCLA. Each worker, including his father, had their own set of hooks. Byron wore hooks that weren't his size, a miscalculation that turned out catastrophic. He ended up suffering a fall that inflicted injury on his hip. His health deteriorated afterward.

"It bothered him for the rest of his life and eventually led to his death, according to the doctors," Bob divulged, "Nature just formed a hip joint, and he had a limp after that, and eventually it rubbed on his spine and caused his death when he was only forty-one years old."

Barker's family moved to South Dakota, where drought and the Great Depression hit them hard

When she tried to land a teaching job in Missouri after Byron John Barker's death with no success, Matilda Kent Tarleton Barker relocated to Mission, South Dakota, as Bob Barker narrated to UCLA. The demise of Byron had coincided with the Great Depression, and it took the help of Matilda's brother-in-law to secure a job. In his book "Priceless Memories," Bob looked back at his childhood at the Rosebud Indian Reservation with nostalgia. He not only made friends, but also played basketball. As beautiful as his upbringing was, it was tainted with adversity.

South Dakota was drought-stricken and marred with dust storms. The state also experienced a grasshopper plague at the same time. The small town Bob and Matilda lived in lacked the most basic amenities. "There was no municipal government, no water system, no sewage system, no electricity, and most of the time no doctor," Bob wrote.

Bob Barker suffered a 'minor stroke'

"I had a minor stroke in 1991. The doctors couldn't explain why I did," Bob Barker revealed during an appearance on "Larry King Live." According to Barker's narration, what would have been a normal day started with faulty vision. Instead of reaching out to a doctor right away, Barker took to exercising. "So I'm out there working out. I was having a stroke, you see. But I worked out," he continued. " I went over. He sent me to an ophthalmologist. He thought it might be something with the eyes. The ophthalmologist sent me over to a neurologist. He said, 'I think you've had a stroke.'"

History repeated itself in September 1999. At the time, Barker was set to have a date with Congress over animal protection but he ended up in hospital instead. Barker reportedly visited the George Washington University Hospital with complaints of tiredness and clumsiness. Medical personnel established that Barker had suffered a transient ischemic attack, otherwise known as a mini stroke. It was caused by an obstruction of Barker's carotid artery, located on the neck, and wasn't uncommon to patients in his age bracket. According to reports, Barker had an endarterectomy scheduled as a precaution against the possibility of a future stroke. Following a three-hour surgery, the beloved game show host was revealed to have had a successful operation and was in recovery.

He underwent prostate surgery

 Bob Barker was back at the George Washington University Hospital for prostate surgery in 2002. In his conversation with Larry King, Barker explained why he needed medical attention. "Like so many men, my prostate is enlarged," he shared, adding that thankfully, it wasn't a cancerous swelling. The condition, he disclosed, got in the way of his nights' rest. "It was interfering with my sleep. I was getting up so many times at night that I was suffering from sleep deprivation."

As a result, Barker underwent a reduction. According to a progress update posted on his website at the time, per Chron, he had an hour-long procedure that required short rest thereafter. By the time King was catching up with Barker, he had been given a clean bill of health.

"This very morning my doctor called me to give me a report on a recent physical. He said everything's beautiful," A delighted Barker said. His sleep was much more comfortable. He was also looking forward to playing basketball and going on a thrilling adventure, like bungee jumping.

The renowned game show host fell in 2015

Bob Barker had a fall in 2015 while taking a stroll around his Hollywood Hills home. The then-91-year-old television host told Entertainment Tonight he suffered a number of injuries. "[I] cut my head all up and cut my knee and scraped," Barker, who wore a visible bandage on his right knee, shared. 

He subsequently gave an account of how it happened along a sidewalk. "My toe hit that little cement [which] was sticking up here, and I started to fall forward and I didn't want to land on the cement," Barker narrated. He wound up on a lush green stretch of grass adjacent to the  path he was avoiding but his head made contact with the rough concrete. He was taken to the hospital by law enforcement officers who witnessed the incident.

Two years later, Barker was back in hospital after another fall occurred in his bathroom, per TMZ. Although 911 answered his call and came to his rescue then, he reportedly had his housekeeper take him to the ER.

He was diagnosed with skin cancer several times

Bob Barker had a number of skin cancer bouts. One such time, he was on track to attend the 2005 Daytime Emmy Awards when he had lesions extracted from his back, per CBS. He blamed his multiple diagnoses on a love for tanning which began way back in the Native American reservation he grew up in.

"As a kid in South Dakota, we took our shirts off when school let out and didn't put them on until school started in the fall," Barker disclosed in a 2007 conversation with Esquire. "We'd go down to the Antelope Crick—that's c-r-i-c-k, not creek—and we'd dive in without a stitch on ... I get skin cancers from my misspent life."

Baker emphasized that a good tan elevated his appearance. He often had one for as long as three hours everyday when time allowed. Getting rid of potential malignant cells was therefore a routine of some sort, one which he religiously adhered to every quarter.

He unsuccessfully tried to get Lucy, the elephant released from the Edmonton Valley Zoo

Bob Barker credited his ability to work as long as did to being a lifelong vegetarian. With that came a love for animals so innate. The story of Lucy, an elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada, was therefore heartbreaking."She's all alone. She's been there in Edmonton for thirty-something years. She, too, is slowly dying. And had one thing after the other," Barker relayed in an interview with CBC. "She had chronic foot infections, and that's the biggest killer of elephants in captivity." Lucy was locked up for a good chunk of time all year round and had respiratory complications, he added. 

A veterinarian assigned to her couldn't find a definite diagnosis. Barker's efforts at lobbying for Lucy's correct medical examination and subsequent release hit a dead end .The City of Edmonton didn't accept his $100,000 offer. A March 2023 report indicated that Lucy was immobile due to her ailment.

Prior to Barker's attempts at giving Lucy a new lease of life, he'd helped with the moving of Maggie, the elephant from the Alaska Zoo to California. Maggy died at her new home, the ARK 2000 sanctuary in August 2021.

He lost his wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon to lung cancer

According to Bob Barker's conversation with UCLA, he wore a badge of pride for achieving three things in high school; landing a basketball scholarship, adding typing to his set of skills, and meeting his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon. After high school, Barker and Gideon attended Drury University in Springfield, Missouri together. The couple tied the knot when Barker joined the military. 

Barker partly owed his success to Gideon. When he had a test run at an interactive radio show after leaving the navy, she cheered him on. "She said, 'You did that better than you've ever done anything else.'" Their goal was to get Barker on a nationwide platform, which they did for years.

Sadly, Gideon died as a result of lung cancer in 1981. Barker acknowledged  Gideon's passing on an episode of "The Price Is Right," telling the audience,"It would seem that many of you have only recently learned of Dorothy Jo's death. And I have been receiving sympathy cards and letters from all over the United States and Canada, and I wanted to say that I am most grateful to you for them. And I'm sure that Dorothy Jo would be very pleased that you have chosen to remember in this way."

Barker never walked down the aisle again. He began the DJ&T Foundation in honor of Gideon and his mother, on which his partner Nancy Burnett was an executive director.