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Monday, April 8, 2013
Former ‘Mouseketeer’ Annette Funicello dies at the age of 70, after suffering for years with MS
Her only daughter, Gina Gilardi, said, ‘She’s on her toes dancing in heaven… no more MS’
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST MinistriesBAKERSFIELD, CA (ANS) -- Actress Annette Funicello, the dark-haired darling of TV's “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s, and for her beach movies with Frankie Avalon, is finally out of her pain.
Her family confirmed to “Extra” that that they were by her side at the Bakersfield hospital when she was taken off life support. Funicello had been in an MS coma for years.
Annette Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987 and became a spokeswoman for treatment of the chronic, often-debilitating disease of the central nervous system. In 1992, Annette finally announced she had MS, a secret she kept for many years. As the illness progressed, she lost the ability to walk in 2004 and to speak in 2009.
Funicello was married to her first husband, Jack Gilardi, from 1965 until 1981, and had three children. In 1986, she married California harness racing horse breeder/trainer Glen Holt, and they had moved from the Los Angeles area after a 2011 fire gutted their home in Encino.
Her only daughter, Gina Gilardi, released a statement saying, “She's on her toes dancing in heaven… no more MS. My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us.”
Annette as a Mouseketeer
“Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends, and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.”
The child star was hand-selected to appear on Walt Disney's show and became an immediate sensation, receiving up to 8,000 fan letters per month, Fox News reported. Funicello was so popular that she only went by her first name throughout her appearance on the show, and she shared a special relationship with Walt Disney, whom she always called “boss”, also licensed Annette lunch boxes, Colorforms dolls, coloring books, comic books and even mystery novels featuring her in fictionalized adventures.
“He was the dearest, kindest person, and truly was like a second father to me. He was a kid at heart,” she was quoted as saying.
Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in one of their famous beach movies
According to the Los Angeles Times, Funicello was a 12-year-old dance-school student when Walt Disney saw her performing the lead role in “Swan Lake” at her dance-school's year-end recital at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank in the spring of 1955.
She joined a group of other talented young performers hired to become Mousketeers on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the children's variety show that debuted on ABC in October 1955 and quickly became a daily late-afternoon ritual for millions of young Americans.
“Like her fellow female Mousketeers, Funicello wore a mouse-eared beanie, a blue pleated skirt, and a white, short-sleeved turtleneck sweater with her name emblazoned in block letters across her chest,” said the LA Times story.
Annette in her later years
in a wheelchair
Funicello made her acting debut on “The Mickey Mouse Club” serial “Adventure in Dairyland.” She also appeared in two of the popular “Spin and Marty” serials about a Western dude ranch for boys, with Tim Considine and David Stollery in the title roles. And in 1958, Disney showcased his prized Mousketeer in her own “Annette” serial.
Now she is finally out of her pain, but Annette Funicello has left behind such great memories for her millions of fans who watched not only her many TV shows and movies, but later on, the courageous way she dealt with her debilitating illness.
|Dan Wooding, 72, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 49 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. Dan recently received two top media awards -- the “Passion for the Persecuted” award from Open Doors US, and as one of the top “Newsmakers of 2011” from Plain Truth magazine. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is “Caped Crusader: Rick Wakeman in the 1970s.” To order a copy, go to: Caped Crusader - Amazon|
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