Real Housewives Deaths: Most Shocking Tragedies in the Franchise [Source: @usweekly]

Real Housewives Tragedies The Saddest and Most Shocking Deaths
Courtesy of Lauri Peterson/Instagram; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Fans of the Real Housewives series have come to know and love not only the cast members of the Bravo franchises, but their spouses, kids and other loved ones – which makes their deaths hit harder.

Real Housewives of Orange County alum Lauri Peterson shared in April 2024 that she was mourning the death of her son, Josh Waring, who appeared on the show alongside her. (Peterson was a main cast member during seasons 1 through 4 and appeared as a guest and friend throughout the series.)

“No one can ever prepare you for this feeling of such deep loss,” the former reality personality wrote via Instagram. “Every fiber in my body hurts. Josh fought every single day for most of his adult life, for his life, but this past Sunday, the challenge was too great.”

Though no cause of death has been confirmed, Waring’s sister, Ashley Zarlin, alleged that her brother’s lifelong struggle with addiction played a role in his death. Fans of the reality series saw Waring’s substance abuse issues play out on screen.

“On Easter Sunday, I lost my brother to the relentless grip of addiction,” she wrote. “It’s a disease that distorts and destroys, leaving behind shattered dreams and broken hearts.”

She continued, “He was brilliant and had limitless potential, but addiction veered him off course. My heart aches for the lost opportunities for us to grow together as adults, to share laughter and dreams, the conversations that we will never get to have, and the dreams that will be left unfulfilled.”

Keep scrolling to read about the heartbreaking losses of those in the Housewives franchises.

Gregg Leakes, ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’

Gregg, whose relationship with wife NeNe was documented on RHOA from seasons 1 through 7 and seasons 10 through 12, died in September 2021 after battling cancer. He was 66 years old.

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“Today the Leakes family is in deep pain with a broken heart. After a long battle with cancer, Gregg Leakes has passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by all of his children, very close loved ones and wife Nene Leakes,” a publicist for the Bravo alum told Us Weekly in a statement at the time. “We ask that you pray for peace and strength over their family & allow them to mourn in private during this very very difficult time.”

Gregg and NeNe originally wed in 1997, but after 14 years of marriage, the Glee alum filed for divorce from Gregg and the proceedings were made final in 2011. The pair eventually reconciled, tying the knot for a second time in 2013.

Dennis Shields, ‘The Real Housewives of New York’

Real Housewives Tragedies The Saddest and Most Shocking Deaths

Dennis Shields and Bethenny Frankel
Alessio Botticelli/GC Images

Shields, who dated longtime cast member Bethenny Frankel on and off from 2016 to 2018, was found dead at age 51 in his Trump Tower apartment in August 2018 after a suspected overdose, though no cause of death has been confirmed. (An autopsy was not performed for religious reasons, Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson, MD, PhD, said in a statement at the time.)

Frankel addressed Shields’ death while sitting down with a therapist in an episode of RHONY.

“I mean, it’s really brutal,” she said. “He was really someone that I went to for everything. So him being gone is a massive void. I really can’t believe he’s gone.”

Russell Armstrong, ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’

Russell, who was married to RHOBH cast member Taylor Armstrong from 2005 to 2011, died by suicide at age 47 one month after Taylor filed for divorce in July 2011. In her filing, she alleged she was physically and verbally abused by Russell.

Real Housewives Tragedies The Saddest and Most Shocking Deaths

Russell Armstrong and Taylor Armstrong
David Livingston/Getty Images

While speaking to Us Weekly in 2022, Taylor reflected on dealing with the aftermath of her ex-husband’s death.

“I knew that I had to survive and make it through so that I could take care of [my now-18-year-old daughter Kennedy]. Kennedy was my first and foremost concern and I just day by day is all I can tell you,” she shared. “It was one disappointment after the other, as things were unfolding. I would just get calls from the attorneys and it was never anything positive.”

Ashley “A.J.” Jewell, ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’

Kandi Burruss‘ ex-fiancé died after suffering a head injury during a fight at an Atlanta strip club in 2009. He was 34 years old.

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“I could never in a million years imagine this happening,” Burruss tweeted at the time. “Please pray for A.J.’s children…that’s who I’m the most concerned for. I’m about to give my swollen eyes some rest now.”

Josh Waring, ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’

Waring died in April 2024. He was 35 years old.

“It is with a shattered heart that I write this post to let you know that my sweet Josh left this earth Easter Sunday,” mom Peterson wrote via Instagram. “No one can ever prepare you for this feeling of such deep loss. Every fiber in my body hurts. Josh fought every single day for most of his adult life, for his life, but this past Sunday, the challenge was too great.”

Fans of the longest-running Housewives franchise watched Waring struggle with substance abuse during Peterson’s run on the show. She appeared as a main cast member in seasons 1 through 4 and was featured as a guest and friend during seasons 5 and 8, respectively.

“My heart is with you and I pray you have found the peace that you so deserve,” Peterson continued in her tribute to her late son. “Heaven has gained the coolest angel and you have gained your freedom at last sweet boy. Love always and forever, Mom.”

Bobby Zarin, ‘The Real Housewives of New York’

Real Housewives Tragedies The Saddest and Most Shocking Deaths

Bobby Zarin and Jill Zarin
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images

RHONY alum Jill Zarin‘s husband Bobby died in 2018 after battling cancer. He was 71 years old.

“With the heaviest of hearts, we are devastated to share the news that our beloved Bobby Zarin passed away peacefully today surrounded by family after a courageous battle with cancer,” the family said in a statement. “There are no words to describe how heartbroken we are. Thank you, everyone for all your love, and support during this difficult time.”

Bobby, who wed Jill in 2000, was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2009 and had his thyroid removed; however, the cancer ended up returning in 2013 and spread to his lungs. In 2016, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.


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Lou Knickerbocker, ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’

Lou, the ex-husband of RHOC alum Tammy Knickerbocker, died of a heart attack at age 67 in 2007 in between season 2 and 3 of the Bravo series. The former couple share daughters Lindsey and Megan, who were also featured on the show.

“I am mainly focused on helping my girls through the loss of their father,” Tammy wrote in a blog post via Bravo after Lou’s death. “Before I had been so busy with my life hanging on by a thread at times, but I am now able to give them the time and energy they need and I am glad I have this chance with them.”

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