Gene Wilder: Iconic Willy Wonka Passes Away from Alzheimer’s Disease

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Image Source: Vanity Fair

Movie legend Gene Wilder dies from Alzheimer’s disease in his Home at Stamford, Connecticut, at 83 years of age

The actor is well remembered for his iconic role as Willy Wonka, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Gene’s family broke the news on Monday, August 29. that the comedic actor died from “complications from Alzheimer’s disease.”  The family’s statement also reveals that the Oscar-nominated Young Frankenstein star had been suffering from the progressive brain disorder for three years but choose to keep it private.

When asked why Gene choose to keep his condition a secret, his family reveals that the decision not to disclose “was his choice.” They said that Gene always liked “talking with us and making a decision as a family.”

The Wilder family explained that the legendary actor’s wish not to disappoint “the countless young children that would smile of call out to him, ‘There’s Willy Wonka’”. Gene also expressed his point that he did not want to expose the children to the cruel realities of Alzheimer’s disease.

“He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” the family said.

In his last years, the iconic actor continued to enjoy art and music and the relationship she shared with his family and wife, Karen.

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Here is the full statement of Wilder family signed by “Gene’s kid” Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

“It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease with which he co-existed for the last three years. The choice to keep this private was his choice, in talking with us and making a decision as a family. We understand for 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 recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that.

“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.


“He continued to enjoy art, music and kissing with his leading lady of the last 25 years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the company of beloved ones.

“He was 83 and passed holding our hands with the same tenderness and love he exhibited as long as I can remember. As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath, the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favorites: Ella Fitzgerald. There is a picture of he and Ella meeting at a London Bistro some years ago that are among each of our cherished possessions. She was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as he was taken away.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

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