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Remembering Annette Funicello, Beloved Disney Mouseketeer

The Walt Disney Company released a statement on April 8th, 2013 announcing “Actress Annette Funicello, long-time Disney and Beach Party star, passed away on Monday, April 8, at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, at the age of 70. She died peacefully from complications due to Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years. Beloved by television viewers in the ’50s for her stint on Disney’s original Mickey Mouse Club, and by film buffs for her numerous roles in a series of popular teen-oriented movies in the ’60s, Funicello became a pop culture icon.”

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger added the following statement “Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mousketeer, and a true Disney Legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. 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.”1

Annette’s incredible achievements include being selected by Walt Disney himself to be a part of the original “The Mickey Mouse Club.” She made appearances in popular television shows such as “Zorro” and “The Horsemasters” in addition to several Disney Movies including “The Shaggy Dog” and “Babes in Toyland.” Annette gained even more popularity as a teen idol after starring in the “Beach Party” movie series. In addition to acting, Annette pursued a successful singing career with multiple singles topping the pop charts.

Annette was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987. In 1992, she made her diagnosis public, saying “I think you only have two choices in this kind of situation. Either you give in to it or you fight it. I intend to fight.”2 Later that year, she established The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases, an organization dedicated to funding research for multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.

Funicello includes details of her personal experiences with MS — as well as many backstage showbiz stories — in her autobiography, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.2

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  • Deb Padovano
    6 years ago

    I too, grew up with Annette Funicello. I especially remember her Beach Party movies. My daughter, age 30, was diagnosed with MS approximately 3 years ago. I subscribed to the MS Newsletter as a way of educating myself. I learn so much from the articles and really admire the fight in those affected. Thank you. xxxooo

  • Sonya
    6 years ago

    I also grew up watching Annette, first on the Mickey Mouse Club, I even had the “mouse ears” ;-), then in the beach teen-age movies, that came along. I remember when I heard of her diagnosis, how sad I was. I now, as having been diagnosed with MS myself, appreciate all she did to help in the conversation & research of this disease.
    Thank-you Annette, & may you rest in peace.
    Heaven now has a new angel ♥

  • Josh
    6 years ago

    I never really watched the Mickey Mouse Club, old or newer versions, but I remember her from the movie “Back to The Beach.” She will be missed. I know that mother, after my diagnosis, turned to a lot of her writings, interviews, etc. and found encouragement there. Thank you, Annette.

  • Donna Pioli
    6 years ago

    Annette was an idol of mine as I watched The Mickey Mouse Club everyday.
    I even had a chance to audition for the Mickey Mouse Club and got a second audition. My Mom refused to allow me to do it.:(.
    I was surprised that some years after Annette was diagnosed with MS, I, also was diagnosed.
    I admired her and she was a great role model. She will be missed.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    6 years ago

    I grew up with Annette as a part of my Television viewing and when she was diagnosed she became the second person I knew with MS after my own Zep. From what we knew, MS had robbed her of so many parts of her life, but not her fighting spirit. I’m sorry her death will gather so much attention as ‘MS kills,’ and frighten so many newly diagnosed people. And Annette, thanks for the childhood memories and sharing your life with MS with the public.

  • Carolyn Maddamma
    6 years ago

    I also remember watching and enjoying Annette on television in the late 1950’s. She was an icon to a young teenaged girl. I was very sad when I saw that she was experiencing MS symptoms as far back as 1987. I had been diagnosed with MS in 1984, and have always been keenly aware, when I find well known people with the same disease. I’ve been in a power wheelchair for 14 years and have some long-standing difficulties, but I have adopted a “my glass is half full” attitude and I refuse to let what I cannot do be more powerful than what I CAN do!

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