The Real-Life Tinker Bell Reconnected with a Lost Love at 90 and It’s Wonderful

”It’s like a Disney story or a Hallmark movie,” says actress Margaret Kerry about her late-in-life romance
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Margaret Kerry has been in show business for a long time. “I was born in 1929, and I’ve been working since I was four years old,” the Glendale resident remembers. “I did 37 major motion pictures as the blur skipping rope.” The child actress appeared in movies with Mickey Rooney and Eddie Cantor and briefly joined the Little Rascals, but she is best known today at fan club conventions as a reference model for Tinker Bell in Walt Disney’s 1953 production of Peter Pan. Special effects crews filmed the 5-foot-2 actress performing scenes from the movie with oversized props. The footage was used to guide artists creating animated scenes for the classic film, similar to the way motion-capture suits are used today.

Kerry attends comic cons around the country, meeting and greeting those anxious to make a connection with Tink. Conventioneers sometimes confide in Kerry as if she were the human embodiment of the palm-size fairy. “A lady told me that Tinker Bell saved her life,” Kerry says. “She had depression and got a Tinker Bell tattoo. Whenever she looks at it she thinks happy thoughts. I get this wonderful feeling of love from the people, and I think that I give it back to them. We talk about dreams they’ve had since they were little kids that they could fly.”

Margaret Kerry in a scene from Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)

Photograph courtesy of Margaret Kerry

Kerry’s ambrosial charm goes down real smooth at Mayberry Days, the annual celebration of The Andy Griffith Show in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Even though Kerry only appeared in two episodes of the 1960s sitcom, she has been invited back eight times to reminisce about the show. “The first audience didn’t really know who I was,” Kerry says. “But everybody else from the show is dead.” Even if she wasn’t the biggest star in Mayberry, Kerry is still sweet on the place. “That’s where I met my beau!”

Margaret Kerry

Photograph courtesy of Margaret Kerry

Robert Boeke was a USC student when he first met Kerry. The two dated for a while, and he even gave her a piece of fancy jewelry from his fraternity. However, when the junior executive accepted a job offer in Northern California and the young starlet refused to leave a prime gig on an ABC sitcom called The Ruggles, the romance ended. Margaret married a TV director, and the pair enjoyed a 37-year run. When he passed away, she married again for 12 years. Kerry spent two decades as a widow; she became a cartoon voice actor and had a career in radio. Soon after her 90th birthday, she heard from an old friend.

Bob Boeke and Margaret Kerry

Photograph courtesy of Margaret Kerry

Boeke, 94, was kicking around Europe with friends after being honored at the 75th anniversary of D-Day when he spotted a store called Tinker Bell’s Toys in Amsterdam. “He turns around,” Margaret recounts, “and tells them, ‘I have been in love with Tinker Bell all my life. I’ve never forgotten her.’ They found my website and sent me an email. My heart just sang.” Memories of their 1940s courtship flooded back, and she remembered that bangle. “After our first phone call,” she says. “I walked over to my pitiful little jewel box and there was the anklet I had kept all those 70 years.”

Margaret Kerry in a scene from Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)

Photograph courtesy of Margaret Kerry

Kerry’s convention appearances take her all over the country, but she kept up with her new old flame on the phone, hoping their schedules would sync. Boeke lives in South Carolina, and Kerry was again headed for Mayberry Days. “He drove eight hours to Mount Airy, and we met at the big dinner,” she said. That’s where he popped the question. “We looked at each other, and it’s been love at second sight. It’s like a Disney story or a Hallmark movie,” Kerry says. The pair will be married this spring and make their home in Sarasota, Florida, just two hours from Walt Disney World.


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