Gerry Turner was a well-polished love machine long before he sought love on season 1 of The Golden Bachelor. Before he got engaged to Theresa Nist on the show, the Bachelor Nation lead was once in a long-term relationship and married for over four decades.

Who Is The Golden Bachelor’s Gerry Turner’s Former Wife?

Like a tale as old as time, Gerry married his high school sweetheart, Toni.

The pair were married for 43 years after they wed in 1974. She suddenly fell ill in November 2017 and passed away after he “took his wife to the hospital when she never came home.”

During their marriage, Gerry and Toni welcomed daughters Angie and Jenny and later became loving grandparents to granddaughters Charlee and Payton.

“Six years after Toni’s passing and with the support of his family, Turner is ready to put himself out there and find a love that will stand the test of time in his golden years,” Gerry’s ABC bio reads.

What Has Gerry Turner Said About His Late Wife?

Gerry gave fans a glimpse into his past romance with his late wife, Toni, and admitted she “would be very pleased” about his Bachelor journey during a July 2023 appearance on “The Bachelor Happy Hour” podcast, which is now cohosted by Bachelor in Paradise season 7 couple Joe Amabile and Serena Pitt.

“I have a picture of her in my walk-in closet, so every night I’m in there and I see her picture. It’s the only one now that I have in the house and in the mornings, I see her picture and you know, we talk,” Gerry said in an eye-watering comment. “I’ll make a brief comment — or sometimes that talk is silent. But here, lately, in the last couple of months, you know, my question for her is always, ‘So what do you think of this? Am I doing the right thing?’ And I really have strong positive feelings about it. I think she would be very happy.”

Who Is Gerry Turner? Meet the Lead of 'The Golden Bachelor'
ABC/Brian Bowen Smith

The new reality star later explained her approval comes after seeing him “fail at a number of attempted relationships and dating.”

Gerry continued, “It’s positive, it’s energetic. It’s a way of communicating and finding the connection with a number of people, but specifically one special person and pretty confident.”

During a teaser clip that aired in August 2023, Gerry grew emotional when he recalled Toni’s death and how he found a way to move forward.

“We had a real typical but full life. Full of love, full of love, full of activity,” Gerry explained. “We went to the emergency room, and she had a bacterial infection that infected her kidneys and infested her liver. And so, I took my wife to the emergency room on July 7, and she passed away on July 15. Now every time I look at [the lake outside my house] I go, ‘This is her dream. This is what she deserves. Why am I standing here alone?’”

Did Gerry Turner Date After Toni’s Death?

While Gerry said he hadn’t dated much since Toni’s death, his ex-girlfriend revealed they dated for nearly three years before he made his reality TV debut.

The ex, who used the name Carolyn to maintain her privacy, told The Hollywood Reporter that she began dating Gerry just one month after Toni died. They met while working together at Vera French Mental Health Center in Davenport, Iowa. While they lost touch when Gerry and Toni moved to Hudson, Indiana, they reconnected and went on to date for 10 months before they moved in together for one year and nine months.

“The idea that I’d go out with a recent widower just mortifies me,” she told the outlet. “I just really didn’t see it. Until I went back and looked at my text messages, I never realized Gerry’s texts had turned hot and heavy so relatively soon.”

As their relationship got more serious, Carolyn moved into his lake house in July 2018. Carolyn said she was shocked to learn that Gerry had controlling tendencies, including his request that she pay $1,000 a month to live in the home and his refusal to pay for her on their dates.

Their relationship hit a major roadblock in October 2019 when the TV personality told Carolyn she couldn’t go to his high school reunion with him because she had gained 10 lbs. They eventually called it quits, with Gerry telling Carolyn she had be out out of the house by January 1, 2020.

While Carolyn was packing up her belongings, she fell down the stairs and had to get foot surgery. She claimed Gerry accused her of using the fall as an excuse to not move out and speculated she planned to sue him for causing the injury.

When Carolyn eventually left, Gerry told her he “really wish this would’ve worked out.”

Gerry has not directly addressed Carolyn’s claims. “My only response is that I have so many positive things in my life right now,” he told The Los Angeles Times in December 2023. “I have the wonderful love of Theresa, my partner. I don’t have time to reflect on comments like this. I’m happy to look forward.”

In a separate interview, he added, “I guess I haven’t really looked at it as how accurate it is. I’ve looked at it more in terms of timing and how it really doesn’t fit with all of the positive things that are going on in my life right now. I mean, I’m sitting across from Theresa right now, and I look at her, and she’s the love of my life. And I really don’t have time to think about some of the other stuff.”

The former restaurateur proposed to Theresa during The Golden Bachelor finale, which aired in November 2023. They quickly set a wedding date for January 4, 2024, after going public with their relationship.