The forbidden love story of Mary Kay Letourneau and her student-turned-husband Vili Fualaau was tumultuous, to say the least. Their romance first sparked in 1996 when Vili was only 12, turning 13, while Mary was 34.
Ultimately, Mary served a seven-year prison sentence for her sexual relationship with her pupil. The couple eventually went back to each other and tied the knot in 2005, now that their romance was finally legal. After 12 years of marriage and raising two daughters, the lovers decided to separate in 2017 and their divorce was finalized in 2019.
“That’s not to say they didn’t love each other, but it wasn’t what it used to be,” a source told People at the time. “For years, there was hope it would work. There was hope up until the time where it was clear that the hope had faded away.”
It’s unclear whether the exes maintained a civil relationship for the sake of their daughters, but shortly after their split, Mary was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer in February. She died on Monday, July 6, at the age of 58, People confirmed.
“It was a very sad ending,” sources told the outlet, adding she lost a lot of weight and was constantly tired as a result of the illness. “Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,” the Letourneau and Fualaau families said in a joint statement.
“Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle,” the statement read. “We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together.”
Although Mary and Vili’s relationship came to a tragic ending, they tirelessly fought for their love to last.
“Everybody wants to hear the story. Whether it’s because they want to analyze it or criticize it. It’s been 20 years, but it’s still there,” she said in an interview with A&E in 2018. “It’s not how it’s portrayed, sixth grade, in the media. When anything developed in our relationship, he was entering the eighth grade age-wise. Sounds young, I get it.”
Check out the timeline below for a full accounting of the couple’s relationship.
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