The devastating news broke this week that Gene Wilder had passed away at the age of 83.
Now his family has revealed that the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory actor died from “complications from Alzheimer’s disease,” which he had apparently been suffering from for the last three years.
An emotional statement released from his “Nephew/Child Jordan Walker-Pearlman” details Wilder’s final days, and the heartbreaking reason why he didn’t want to disclose his diagnosis to the public.
“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 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.”
Wilder, who was also known for his iconic roles in films such as The Producers, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, brought smiles to many over the course of his long career, and he will be greatly missed.