Inside Luke Perry's Private Life: From Beverly Hills, 90210 Heartthrob to 'Hands-on' Father
"He was a super great, very hands-on dad," a source tells PEOPLE of the late star Luke Perry
At the height of his Beverly Hills, 90210 fame, Luke Perry was one of the biggest teen idols — his face gracing the covers of magazines. causing frenzies at malls, and appearing on merchandise everywhere (yes, there’s even a Barbie doll designed after his TV character, Dylan McKay).
But as Perry retreated from the spotlight over the years, the late star — who died on Monday at the age of 52, five days after suffering a massive stroke — focused on his family life.
He married Rachel ‘Minnie’ Sharp in November 1993. A onetime furniture saleswoman, Sharp had dated Perry for two years before they exchanged “I dos” in a private ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Their wedding was attended by 50 friends and family (including 90210 costars Jason Priestley, James Eckhouse, and Brian Austin Green, as well as Perry’s mother and stepfather, Ann and Steve Bennett).
While Sharp’s father Alan wrote the screenplay for the 1983 Mel Gibson-Sigourney Weaver movie The Year of Living Dangerously, it was the fact that she had a life outside of Hollywood that made her the right fit for Perry. “She will be good for Luke,” 90210 creator Aaron Spelling told USA Today at the time. “She’s not in show business. Her head is on really straight.”
Early on, the couple lived together (with his three Vietnamese potbellied pigs) in what he described to PEOPLE in 1993 as his “old house on one acre” in the San Fernando Valley.
They had two children — son Jack, 21, and daughter Sophie, 18 — before divorcing in 2003. They shared joint custody from there on out.
“Luke was a super great, very hands-on dad,” a source tells PEOPLE. “He was always attending his kids’ school and after-school functions when they were younger. He loved just hanging out with them and being present. He was so proud of everything they accomplished.”
Jack has followed his father’s footsteps into the entertainment industry, though as a professional wrestler. With a fit frame and lion’s mane hair, Jack currently performs under the name “Jungle Boy Nate Coy.” As of January, he was signed with All Elite Wrestling, and boasted his own merchandise.
Perry was supportive of his son, even showing up in Los Angeles to watch one of his matches back when he was wrestling for Underground Empire Wrestling. The proud father was spotted there in the stands, filming his son the entire time.
Sophie also had a close relationship with her dad.
Back in June, she shared a photo of the two before her senior prom, with Perry kissing his daughter on the cheek as they posed together outside. She wore a yellow tulle cocktail-length dress with a fitted bodice and ruffled skirt. “I was going for that, like, Frenchie at the dance vibe,” Sophie wrote, seemingly referencing Grease.
Sophie also shared a picture in October of the two posing with their arms around one another, each dressed in outdoor gear. “My old man and I are truly such fashion icons,” Sophie teased. “I mean… CMON.”
As of Jan. 29, Sophie has been living in Malawi, Africa, with a group of service volunteers to work on community development projects. The four-month trip was expected to also include a trip to Brazil.
A sourced told PEOPLE that she was still in Africa when her father fell ill, and rushed to Los Angeles before his death Monday.
Perry also had a relationship with 44-year-old Wendy Madison Bauer.
The pair were engaged at the time of his death, according to Perry’s rep. She was by his deathbed on Monday alongside Jack, Sophie, Sharpe, and Perry’s brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, mother Ann Bennett and stepfather Steve Bennett.
Steve appeared to have a special place in Perry’s heart, helping raise the boy since he was 12. “[He is] the greatest man I know. I love him,” Perry told PEOPLE in 1991, explaining that he had an estranged relationship with his birth father, who died of a heart attack in 1980. “He was the one who taught me the important things I needed to know about being a man.”
Meanwhile, Perry’s family has asked for time to mourn privately.
“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning,” the rep said in a statement. “No further details will be released at this time.”