Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

Actor Gene Wilder Dies of Complications From Alzheimer’s Disease at 83

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The family of Gene Wilder confirmed to Associated Press today that the iconic comedy actor famous for his roles in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mel Brooks classics like Young Frankenstein and The Producers, and Blazing Saddles, died on Sunday.

Wilder was in his home in Stamford, Connecticut and passed away as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said in a statement:

“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. 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 twenty-five 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 the company of beloved ones.”

Wilder’s long career means that fans will pay tribute and remember the actor in a number of ways. I’ll never forget how he sang about pure imagination in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Rest in peace, Gene Wilder.

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