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Who was '1000-lb Sisters' star Tammy Slaton's late husband Caleb Willingham? A look back at their love story

The TLC star recently announced that her husband had passed away less than a year after their wedding.
Tammy Slaton, Caleb Willingham
The newlyweds were married less than a year before Willingham's death.@queentammy86 via Instagram

When "1000-Lb. Sisters" star Tammy Slaton announced the death of her husband Caleb Willingham earlier this month at the age of 40, messages of condolence instantly poured in for the reality star.

Fans of the popular TLC series were first introduced to Slaton's other half on the show, and they witnessed the couple tie the knot on TV. But many still don't know very much about Willingham.

Read on for a recap of their love story, and how Slaton remembered Willingham after his death.

The pair met at a rehab center in Ohio

When Slaton entered Windsor Lane Rehabilitation Center in Gibsonburg, Ohio in 2022, she went with the goal of losing weight.

Finding love was simply a lucky coincidence.

In one episode of her reality series, Slaton explained that she had to stay at the rehab longer than expected due to a trach infection and was initially "sad" and "mad" that she couldn't go home.

"But I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Now I know it was Caleb all along," she said.

Slaton first introduced her social media followers to Willingham in a video and said, "I like him, but I want to see where it leads to."

When she first told her family that she was engaged, they expressed concern that a new relationship would distract her from focusing on her health.

However, Slaton said she and Willingham were hoping to work on their recovery together.

"We’re gonna work on both of us leaving at the same time," she said at the time.

Despite her family's concerns, Slaton made it clear that she intended to make her own decisions, with or without their blessings.

"I want their approval, but if I don't get it I'm still going to marry him because he makes me happy. They just need to trust me," she said.

Slaton said her late husband was a 'lot different' than the guys she normally dated

In a video recap of their love story that TLC posted to YouTube, Slaton described Willingham as “a lot different” than the men she had dated in the past.

“I don’t usually go for the bigger people, but he’s cute, he’s funny, loving, caring. So instead of going for the skinny bad guy or whatever, why not give somebody else a chance?" she said in the clip. 

Willingham, on the other hand, said Slaton had a “calming” effect on him.

"You’re so sweet and caring, like I know you’d be a great mom and I think that you'd make a great wife," he told her on one of their dates.  

Willingham proposed after just three weeks

After three weeks of dating, Willingham asked Slaton to marry him. TLC caught the proposal on camera. For the special occasion, he took his future bride to the parking lot of their rehab center and professed his love for her.

“So it’s just been a short time, but I know without a doubt you’re the most beautiful amazing wonderful person I’ve ever known," he said.

After the proposal, Slaton was speechless but she eagerly accepted and explained why their relationship was so special in an interview with TLC.

"I've never felt this way about anybody. The last two relationships (I was in), I was never this happy," she said.  

Willingham also reflected on their future goals after getting engaged.

"We’re gonna get married, gonna have a couple of kids hopefully, life’s gonna be great," he said.

The couple's wedding was televised

On Nov. 19, 2022, Slaton and Willougby said "I do" at the rehab center where they first met. The intimate ceremony featured 30 guests and the bride shared the following statement with TLC: “You all knew me as Tammy Slaton, but now you’ll all know me as Mrs. Tammy Willingham. I’m married now!”

TLC cameras caught the moment and aired the ceremony in the Season Four finale of "1000-Lb. Sisters" in March 2023. In a clip from the episode, the bride reflected on the moment she first locked eyes with her husband on their big day.

“When I saw Caleb at the altar, I was just picturing doves and butterflies all around like God had opened up the clouds and let the sunlight in,” she said. “It was magical.”

Caleb, who cried when he saw his bride, said his "heart explode(d)" during the beautiful moment.

Slaton announced Willingham's death in July 2023

On July 1, 2023, Slaton announced that her husband, 40, had died.

She broke the news on Instagram and shared a photo of her and Willingham along with the following caption: "Rip sweet angel you will forever be missed and loved so much thank you Caleb for showing me real love and happiness ❤️❤️."

TLC shared the following statement with at the time: “We are deeply saddened to learn of Caleb Willingham’s passing. Our condolences go out to Tammy, his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Slaton also released the following statement to People. “I am devastated to share the news of my husband’s passing,” she said. “He was my best friend and I loved him dearly.”

“When I met Caleb he became my guardian angel and now he really is watching over me,” the statement continued. “Our families appreciate everyone’s sympathy and ask that you respect our privacy at this time.”

In a TikTok video posted shortly after her husband's death, Slaton said she was experiencing the "stages of grief."

"Yeah, we were having problems, but I loved that man and I still do,” she said. “I miss him like crazy but I wanted to thank everybody for your comments.”

While she declined to share details about her husband's death, Slaton said he's "in a better place" and no longer "in pain."