Tammy Slaton experienced tragedy when her husband, Caleb Willingham, died at the age of 40 on June 30. The couple met at a weight loss rehab center, and their relationship has been documented on the TLC series 1000-Lb. Sisters.
Caleb has been featured in the latest season of the show, which premiered on TLC in December 2023. In the December 26 episode, Caleb scheduled a meeting with Dr. Smith, Tammy’s doctor. “It’s been 2 weeks since Tammy left rehab, and I can’t tell you how much I miss my wife,” Caleb said. “Of course, me being the emotional eater that I am, my diet has gone to hell.”
At his weigh-in, Caleb weighed 537 pounds. Dr. Smith told Caleb that he didn’t want to do the weight loss surgery until Caleb got down to 500 pounds. However, Dr. Smith warned Caleb that he would have to return to rehab after the surgery.
During the January 9 episode, Tammy traveled to see Caleb in rehab for the first time in 2 months. When he stepped on the scale again, Caleb weighed 524.6 pounds. “I’m conflicted,” Caleb said. “On one hand, I’ve lost 12.5 pounds, but in my head and in my heart, I know that I should be below 500. It’s all lack of discipline on my part.”
Tammy was concerned about her husband, and she was disappointed when she spotted snacks in his room. “I don’t wanna be the reason for stress and burdens,” Caleb told Tammy. “I wanna be the reason that things help get fixed and easier for you. And I haven’t done that. And I feel like sh*t for it. It’s easier to jump in and just eat a bunch of junk than to talk to you.”
Later, Caleb vowed to “fight” so he could come home to Tammy. “It’s not all about the snacks,” Tammy said. “Food addiction is deadly, and I need you to understand that this is serious. It’s life or death.” Keep reading to learn about Caleb, his relationship with Tammy, and his tragic death.
What Happened to Caleb Willingham?
Caleb died from unknown causes on June 30, 2023. Tammy confirmed her husband’s passing in a heartbreaking statement to PEOPLE.
“I am devastated to share the news of my husband’s passing,” the reality star said on July 1. “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. Our families appreciate everyone’s sympathy and ask that you respect our privacy at this time.”
TLC also addressed Caleb’s death in a statement. “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,” the network said.
Tammy Shared How She Found Out About His Death
Tammy recalled the moment she learned about Caleb’s death in an interview with PEOPLE. “I got a text message from his friend up there and the text said, ‘Caleb’s not doing good. They’re in there working on him.’ 20 minutes later he texted me back and said he was gone,” she said.
Since his passing, Tammy revealed that he had his ashes made into jewelry, and she feels closer to him by wearing it. “Knowing that he’s with me, it’s helping me pass the day. I find myself grabbing my necklace and holding it a lot. When I take off my jewelry, I feel like it’s weird, separation anxiety. I start panicking,” she told the outlet.
What Was Caleb Willingham’s Job?
It’s unclear what Caleb did for work. Before the fifth season, he appeared on only one episode of 1000-Lb Sisters. The episode aired in March 2023 and documented his and Tammy’s wedding that took place in November 2022.
How Long Were Caleb Willingham and Tammy Slaton Married?
After meeting at the Windsor Lane Rehabilitation Center in 2022, Tammy and Caleb got engaged in October and were married by November. They said “I do” at the same rehab center in Gibsonburg, Ohio where they met.
“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,” Tammy told People at the time. “It was magical. Our wedding day was perfect, there was so much love in the room. I literally married my best friend.”
After five months of marriage, The Sun reported that Tammy was in the process of filing for divorce from Caleb. Allegedly, the couple broke up because of Caleb’s weight gain, while Tammy was making progress in losing weight. “He has gained 30 lbs and hasn’t been working his program,” a source close to Tammy told The Sun. “They got into a big fight over it and he told her he wanted a divorce, but then he tried to backtrack.”
It’s unclear if Tammy and Caleb were officially broken up at the time of his death.
In the season 5 premiere, Caleb opened up about how he wasn’t yet ready to leave the facility, and he admitted to being afraid of losing Tammy. “The last time I’m going to see Tammy in this room. The last time I hold my wife’s hand, that I’ll kiss her. In my head, all that I keep saying is, ‘Tammy’s gonna leave you. Tammy doesn’t think that you’re enough,’” he said.
At one point, Tammy spoke about how she didn’t want to leave without Caleb in the season premiere. “I can’t imagine walking out of this place without my husband,” she said. “I let the world pass me by, biggest part of my life, because of my weight. It’s just I’m not mentally prepared to leave you.”
In the December 26 episode, Caleb was heartbroken that he had gained weight in the 2 weeks after Tammy had left rehab. “We’ve got plans. We want a family. We want to travel. It’s kinda hard to do that when you’re a few hundred miles away,” Caleb said about his relationship.
Caleb told Tammy the unfortunate news about his meeting with Dr. Smith in a FaceTime call. “It sucks. I was hoping Dr. Smith told Caleb he’s lost enough weight to have surgery and get his trach removed,” Tammy said. “It bothers me that he’s backsliding, but Caleb’s very sensitive, so I feel like I can’t say anything. It’s just, I feel like I have to be strong for him.”
Tammy began to cry as she thought about Caleb. She added, “I am worried about Caleb. I think he’ll let depression set in before he hits rock bottom again and gets determined to come home. I feel guilty, sad. I’m numb. I don’t know how to feel… Overwhelmed, stressed out, just everything.”