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Actor and comedian Robin Williams dances with his wife, Valerie Velardi, at Studio 54 in New York City on April 12, 1979. Williams is appearing in the ABC television comedy series "Mork and Mindy." (AP Photo)

Robin Williams wed first wife in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — Mark Gagliardi was working as a busboy at The Farms Country Club on June 4, 1978, when, on the other side of the building, Robin Williams was celebrating his marriage to Valerie Velardi, his first wife.

Velardi was the daughter of Leonard Velardi, a club member and owner of several Hamden construction companies. Gagliardi said it was a big wedding but, at the time, Williams was not yet a major celebrity.

“We didn’t know how big he was going to get,” Gagliardi said. “He was just getting started.”

Williams, the Oscar-winning actor and comedian, was found dead Monday at his home in California. He was 63.

Gagliardi, now a salesman for the country club, said the wedding was a major affair. Stories of it have been passed on by club employees.

Gagliardi was 22 at the time of the wedding and was working his first job. He said it’s “pretty cool” to be able to tell the story years later of a connection to Williams.

Leonard Velardi died in 2011 at age 85. He was a founding member of the club on Cheshire Road.

Williams had a rocky personal life that included three marriages, one to the nanny of the child he had with Velardi. He and his first wife divorced in 1988 and he married again in 1989.

Williams and Velardi had one son, Zachary Williams.

Valerie Velardi now lives in San Francisco, California. Articles at the time of her wedding describe her as a dancer. Attempts to reach her Tuesday were unsuccessful. Her brother, Peter Velardi, was listed as living in Wallingford at the time of their father’s death but also could not be reached.

California authorities said Tuesday that Williams hanged himself in a bedroom of his San Francisco Bay Area home. During his life Williams had been addicted to cocaine and alcohol.

Rich Hanley, a Quinnipiac University journalism professor, said the travel, stress and money that comes with celebrity status isn’t usually conducive to married life.

“The pressures of that lifestyle work against marriages of all kinds,” he said. Multiple marriages are “not atypical of Hollywood or the entertainment industry.”

William’s apparent suicide by hanging could give more media coverage to depression, Hanley said, and possibly lead people to intervene when they see signs of depression in friends and relatives.

Hanley described Williams as an accomplished entertainer who was able to succeed on a variety of platforms.

Williams began his career with the “Mork & Mindy” television show. He performed stand-up and was in a number of movies such as “Good Will Hunting,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society.

“He did it all,” Hanley said. (203) 317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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