What Happened to Tammy Slaton’s Husband? Everything to Know About Caleb Willingham & How He Died

Tammy Slaton addressed Caleb Willingham's sudden death in the '1000-Lb. Sisters' finale. Learn more about Caleb and his marriage to Tammy.

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Tammy Slaton experienced tragedy when her husband, Caleb Willingham, died at the age of 40 in June 2023. 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.”

Caleb Willingham

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.”

Tammy’s visit continued in the January 16 episode, and she was “determined” to get Caleb back on the right track. She had Caleb throw away his unhealthy snacks. “I can’t afford to go backwards,” Caleb said. “There’s more to life than food. I have my wife who loves me, and she’s proven that time and time again. So now it’s time to show her the same respect.” 

Before Tammy left, Caleb played a romantic date night. But all the food he got for them was fried, which left Tammy “perturbed.” He picked what “used to be her favorites” for their date. “After what we went through, you got food we’re really not supposed to be eating,” Tammy told him. 

She added in a confessional, “I’m not just upset that Caleb isn’t making healthy choices. He was just in the hospital, and clearly the food addiction is worse than I thought it was.” Caleb knew that Tammy was disappointed. “After this dinner, I feel torn apart,” he said. “I let her down. I made a bad decision. There was no moderation in this meal. I need to fix things, not make them worse.” 

Later, Caleb told Tammy that dropping 25 pounds shouldn’t be that hard for him. “Prove it,” Tammy said. Caleb cried when Tammy left the rehab center. “I feel like you’re running away forever,” he said.

In the next episode, Caleb sent Tammy a sweet care package. Tammy admitted that it was “nice” that Caleb was trying to show his love “even from a distance.” Caleb confessed that he missed Tammy so much. Despite texts and FaceTime calls, it’s not enough for him. “At the end of the day, you always want more,” he said.

Tammy asked about him getting on the scale again, but Caleb was hesitant. She said she’s “disappointed” in him and bummed that he can’t go on vacation with her to Florida. Caleb promised that he would work “hard” to get the weight loss surgery and get back on track. “I’m gonna bust my ass to see you again,” Caleb told Tammy.

The January 30 episode picked up with Tammy still at the beach with her family. She spoke to Caleb via FaceTime, and he was upset that he couldn’t be there with her. “Originally, I was supposed to be on this family trip,” he said. “I was supposed to be dropping this weight, and it hurts all the more thinking that this could have been like a honeymoon. You know, that was the plan. And here I am still in rehab.”

Tammy confessed that she felt like she was “leaving” Caleb “further behind” now that she was out of rehab. However, she did say that Caleb sounded “positive” for the first time in a while, so she thought this was a good step in the right direction.

Caleb admitted that his “emotional eating” had started “spiraling out of control.” He added, “I was really thinking that her coming up here would make things so much better. But like, food is the addiction that I have because I need an escape for all my emotions and that’s what eating does.”

He revealed that he’d been coughing a lot more recently and had been getting 2 breathing treatments a day. “We’ve got to stick to the positive in the situation. There is more to go, but at least we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “Tammy Slaton, I love you. I’m getting this surgery. I’m getting a better life.”

During the February 6 finale, Tammy opened up about Caleb’s death. Tammy admitted that she was “not sure exactly” how Caleb died. “At first, they told me it was like a heart attack because he was working out,” she said. “But everything is up in the air until I get the autopsy back. I think I was in shock more than anything at first, and all I could do was sit and stare at my couch and I could just picture his face sitting there. At times, I still don’t know how to process it. My best friend’s gone.”

She later added, “Because I am Caleb’s wife, I have a lot of decisions to make. But I’m going to talk to his family about it. I want to respect their wishes.” Two weeks later, Tammy got back from Ohio after getting arrangements together and packing up Caleb’s things. Tammy decided to have Caleb cremated after speaking with his family.

Leading up to the memorial service, Tammy was “nervous.” Billy, a home care nurse who married Tammy and Caleb, attended the funeral. Caleb’s family couldn’t make it, so his friends came on their behalf. Tammy broke down in tears at the service, and one of Caleb’s friends played one of his songs.

“Listening to Caleb’s song kinda felt like a hug from him. He was actually really good. He had talent. He couldn’t sing, but he could rap,” she said. Caleb’s friend also read a poem that Caleb wrote while he was in rehab with Tammy. “The poem was one of the last things Caleb wrote me,” Tammy revealed. “Caleb and I had a lot of plans. We wanted to grow old together. We wanted to sit on the front porch and watch the sunset. We even wanted children. And now, that’s not going to happen.” Keep reading to learn about Caleb, his relationship with Tammy, and his tragic death.

What Happened to Caleb Willingham?

One week after returning from her Florida vacation, Tammy received the shocking news about Caleb. She was on the phone with her cousin when “out of nowhere” she got a text from a friend that read, “Caleb’s non-responsive. And no pulse.” An hour later, her friend texted again and said Caleb was text. He passed away on June 30, 2023, at 2:56 p.m. Tammy confirmed her husband’s passing in a heartbreaking statement to PEOPLE a day later.

“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.”