'Willy Wonka' actor Gene Wilder dies at 83: Why family didn't disclose his condition earlier

30 August 2016 / 1 month 3 weeks ago

Gene Wilder has died aged 83.

The 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' star tragically passed away at his home in Stamford, Connecticut from complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Read also: 45 years later: What the cast of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory looks like now

In a statement, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said: "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 recognise 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."

During his illustrious career, Gene - who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1989 - was best known for his roles in 'The Producers' and 'Blazing Saddles'

But it was with 'Young Frankenstein' where Gene particularly shined, co-penning the 1974 film with his friend Mel Brooks.

Writing a tribute on Twitter, Mel wrote: "Gene Wilder - One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship. (sic)"

Gene is survived by his wife Karen Boyer.

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