The Marriage of Don Ameche and Honore Prendergast

Photo of Don Ameche and Honore Prendergast waving from the deck of the Queen Mary
Don Ameche and his wife Honore Prendergast on the Queen Mary in 1938

The debonair movie and radio star Don Ameche was only married once during his lifetime. He wed Honore Prendergast in 1932, they had six children and the union lasted until her death in 1986. That sounds like a storybook romance, but the following paragraph in her obituary from the Des Moines Register indicates it was a bit more complicated:

Don Ameche appeared in several radio productions, including a starring role in The First Nighter Program, in the 1930s. Among his most famous film roles was his portrayal of Alexander Graham Bell in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. He recently won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in Cocoon. His son, Don Jr., said his father is currently working on a film with Geraldine Page and Shelly Winters in New Jersey and will not be able to attend the funeral services.

Honore Prendergast Ameche died in 1986 at age 78 of a heart ailment in her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa. The Ameches had six children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren at the time of her death. During the height of Don's fame the Hollywood press listed their children as Donnie, Ronnie, Tommie, Lonnie, Bonnie and Connie. Her obituary lists her surviving children as Don Ameche Jr., Ron Ameche, Tom Ameche, Bonnie Steltenkamp and Connie Bringanti.

The Ameches both had ties to Dubuque, since she was born there and he had attended Columbia College, which is known today as Loras College. He was acting on the old-time radio show First Nighter in Chicago and she was residing in Dubuque the year they married. Modern Screen magazine asked Don how their romance began:

We went out together that night and ever night after that while she was in Chicago. Then she had to get back to her work. She was a dietitian in Dubuque. That was the first part of September. After that, every weekend, I covered the 170 miles to Dubuque to see her. In the last part of November, we were married. Father Sheehy came back from Washington to marry us.

The Ameches delayed their honeymoon for a year because he was so busy with his radio work, finally celebrating their union with a trip to Bermuda. Honore Prendergast was called the nickname Honey. She was separated from Don Ameche for the last 20 years of her life, according to Parade columnist Walter Scott.

Don Ameche died in 1993 at the Scottsdale, Arizona, home of his son. The cause of death was prostate cancer.

In 1979, entertainment writer Bob Herguth noted the length of the Ameches' marriage and asked Don for his secret of showbiz marital happiness. Ameche replied, "I wouldn't know."

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