Tammy Faye Bakker Messner
Tamara Faye LaValley Bakker Messner (March 7, 1942 – July 20, 2007) was an American Christian Singer, evangelist, enterpreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. She was married from 1961 to 1992 to televangelist Jim Bakker. She co-hosted with him on The PTL Club (1976–1987). She was a participant in the 2004 season of the reality show, The Surreal Life.
The eldest of eight children, Tammy Faye was born Tamara Faye LaValley in International Falls, MN., to Pentecostal preachers Carl and Rachel Fairchild LaValley. Her parents were married in 1941, one year before Tammy Faye was born. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers, alienating her from the church. After the divorce, Tammy Faye continued living in a strict atmosphere with her mother and brother. In 1948, when she was six, her mother married Fred Grover, who worked in paper mills. His salary increased their income, but the marriage also added six children to the household.
As a girl child in the 1950s, she helped her mother with household chores and babysat her younger siblings; but she was often spoiled by her favorite aunt, Virginia Fairchild, who was a retired department store manager.
When she was accompanied by a friend to the Assemblies of God church, at age 10, she said she "felt the glow of God's love and wanted to call herself upon the Lord. Her entire family gathered around her for celebrations, particularly Christmas, which was her favorite holiday. In 1956, she started spending summers at Bible camp and was voted "Queen". Also in 1956, she attended Falls High School, where she sang in the choir, and got an after-school job at Woolworth's. She didn't attend school dances, baseball games, or even movies, as her church did not allow it. Before she graduated in 1960, her mother suggested that Tammy Faye would become a minister.
In 1960, she met Bakker when they were students at North Central Bible College. Tammy Faye worked in a boutique for a time while Jim found work in a restaurant inside a department store in Minneapolis. They were married on April 1, 1961. The following year, they moved to South Carolina, where they began their ministry.
Their marriage produced two children, Tammy Sue (Sissy) Bakker Chapman (born 1970) and Jamie Charles (Jay) Bakker (born 1975).
Jim and Tammy Bakker had been involved with television from the time of their departure from Minneapolis until they moved to the Charlotte area where they were founding members of the 700 Club. While in Portsmouth, they were hosts of the popular children's show "Jim and Tammy". They then created a puppet ministry for children on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) from 1964 to 1973 and co-founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network with personal friends Paul and Jan Crouch. Jim and Tammy founded the PTL Club (Praise The Lord) in the mid 1970s.
During the PTL shows, she provided a sentimental touch to stories and loved to sing. In a move that sharply distinguished her from other televangelists, she showed a more tolerant attitude when it came to homosexuality, and she featured people suffering from AIDS on PTL, urging her viewers to follow Christ and show sympathy and pray for the sick.
Marriage to Roe Messner
Tammy stood by husband Jim Bakker through the PTL debacle, but filed for divorice in 1992, after her husband was sentenced to prison.
On October 3, 1993, she married Roe Messner and they moved to the Charlotte suburb of Matthews, NC. Messner, who had a contracting business in a suburb of Wichita, had built much of Heritage USA as well as many large churches and had been a family friend to the Bakkers throughout the PTL years.
In July 2007, the Messners relocated to a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, the Village of Loch Lloyd. Tammy Faye told Entertainment Tonight they had moved to her "dream house," built by Roe, to be closer to Roe's children and grandchildren from his first marriage.
Back in the public eye
When she was first diagnosed with colon cancer, she re-entered the public eye in a series of books, movies and television appearances.
In 1996 she wrote her autobiography, Tammy: Telling It My Way , and she co-hosted a TV talk show titled The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show with Jim J. Bullock.
She was the subject of a documentary titled The Eye's of Tammy Faye (1999) and a followup film titled Tammy Faye: Death Defying (2004).
She appeared twice on The Drew Carey Show playing the mother of character Mimi, who was also known for wearing excessive amounts of makeup.
On September 11, 2003, she published a new autobiography, I Will Survive... and You Will, Too!, in which she described her battles with cancer and her life with Messner.
In 2005, she appeared in an infomercial for an alternative medicine promoter. On her site, Tammyfaye.com, she credits green supplements as a helpful part of her initial colon cancer remission.
In early 2004, she appeared on the second season of the The Surreal Life. The show chronicled a twelve-day period wherein she and others lived together in a house and were assigned various tasks and activities.
Tammy Faye's 11-year battle with cancer was highly publicized. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 1996, and the disease went into remission by the end of that year.
On March 19, 2004, Tammy Faye made an appearance on Larry King LIve and announced that she had inoperable lung cancerr and would soon begin chemotherapy.She continued receiving chemotherapy throughout mid-2004. On November 30, 2004, also on Larry King Live, she announced that she was cancer free once again. She described the details of her chemotherapy and continued to appear regularly on King's show. It was on his program again that she announced, on July 20, 2005, that her cancer had returned.
On March 13, 2006, she appeared again on Larry King Live and stated that she was continuing to suffer from lung cancer, which had reached stage 4, and that she was continuing to receive treatment for it. She also mentioned having difficulty swallowing food, suffering from panic attacks, and enduring substantial weight loss. Her health continued to worsen.
On May 8, 2007, she issued a statement on her website saying that chemo therepy had stopped, but urging her fans to continue to pray for her. The story was reported on The Today Show, and a feature in which fans and well-wishers could post get-well messages to Tammy was added to her website. By July 2007, over 228 pages of wishes had been received.
On July 19, 2007, Tammy Faye made another appearance on CNN's Larry King Live in what turned out to be her final interview (she died the following day, just hours after the broadcast). At the time, she said she weighed 65 pounds and was unable to eat solid food. Messner's husband would later say that he believed that she chose to do the interview to say a final goodbye to her followers. During the interview, Messner had this message:
"I'd like to say that I genuinely love you, and I genuinely care, and I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace. I want you to find joy."
On July 20, 2007, at 4 am, Tammy Faye Messner died following an 11-year battle with cancer. What had started as colon cancer had spread to her lungs. A family service was held in the Messner family plot in Waldron, Kansas, where her ashes were interred. A memorial service was later held in California.
She had frequently spoken about her medical problems, saying she hoped to be an inspiration to others. "Don't let fear rule your life," she said. "Live one day at a time, and never be afraid."