The Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles star has passed away at the age of 83. Gene Wilder ‘s dedication to the magic of his most famous character, Willy Wonka, drove him to keep his battle with Alzheimer’s disease a secret, his family have confirmed following his sad death.
It was announced Monday that the 83-year-old had passed away in a statement issued by his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman. Revealing the actor had chosen to keep his Alzheimer’s secret so that children who knew him as Willy Wonka would not equate the whimsical character with an adult disease. The statement read: “It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parents and universal artist Gene Wilder at his home in Stamford, Connecticut.
His nephew added: “We understand all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones – this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognise those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality.
“The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
The touching message was signed off “Gene’s Kid”.