The nephew of legendary comedy actor and writer Gene Wilder released a heartfelt statement Monday on his 83-year-old uncle's death. Wilder died late Sunday in Stamford, Connecticut, due to complications with Alzheimer's disease.
Wilder starred in classic comedy films including "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein."
"He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen," wrote his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman. "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."
The letter in its entirety is included below:
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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 Alzheimers 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 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.
He is survived by Karen, Jordan, and the Webbs (Kevin, Gretchen, Tucker, Spencer), along Jordan’s wife Elizabeth. Gene's sister Corinne, predeceased him in January of this year. He was eighty-three 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 or cherished possessions. She was singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," as he was taken away.