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Gene Wilder's Family Releases Statement, Explains Why Alzheimer's Diagnosis Was Kept Secret

Gene Wilder's Family Releases Statement, Explains Why Alzheimer's Diagnosis Was Kept Secret

The family of Gene Wilder has released a lengthy statement on his death at the age of 83.

Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the “nephew/child” of the legendary actor, wrote the statement to honor the special person in his life.

“It is with indescribably sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life live that I announced the passing of husband, parents, and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford Connecticut. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him,” the statement began.

“The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, with which he co-existed for the last three years,” Jordan explained. “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 added.

Jordan finished the statement by saying, “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 bare 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 our cherished possessions. She was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ as he was taken away.”

Read what celebrities and friends of the actor are saying about the loss.

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Photos: Getty
Posted to: Gene Wilder

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  • Ash

    :’(

  • xica

    The woman in red :D

  • Carole Raybourn

    What a lovely tribute. I am saddened to hear of his passing. My Dad died from Alzheimer’s three years ago. It was a long battle and not so easy. We, me and my kids, love you Gene Wilder.

  • Renee Davis

    I understand why… Either he or his loved ones felt embarrassed by the mental illness stigma. It is NOT a mental illness. Stop hiding it in the closet!

    This is a physical illness that needs exposure to the masses so that we can find a cure or something…

    Alzheimer’s, dementia or mild cognitive impairment, it is called by many names.

    If you don’t know someone affected by Alz… it is just because they are scared to tell you.

    http://www.alz.org/facts/

  • Susan McCormick

    RIP. Now he’s with Gilda.

  • Susan McCormick

    My Mom had Alzheimer’s yet I don’t begrudge him wanting to keep it quiet. Too bad you couldn’t focus on what a wonderful career he had instead of attacking him for wanting to keep it quiet.

  • Shaun Hallam

    I don’t think it was embarrassment why they chose to remain silent…I like to think it really was so people kept smiling …..sad day though

  • Shaun Hallam

    I don’t think it was embarrassment why they chose to remain silent…I like to think it really was so people kept smiling …..sad day though

  • http://www.googleglassmommy.blogspot.com Jennifer McKelvey

    What a beautiful statement and tribute. RIP Mr Wilder. The world is a lot less funny today because you’re gone.

  • http://www.googleglassmommy.blogspot.com Jennifer McKelvey

    What a beautiful statement and tribute. RIP Mr Wilder. The world is a lot less funny today because you’re gone.

  • http://www.googleglassmommy.blogspot.com Jennifer McKelvey

    What a beautiful statement and tribute. RIP Mr Wilder. The world is a lot less funny today because you’re gone.

  • http://www.googleglassmommy.blogspot.com Jennifer McKelvey

    What a beautiful statement and tribute. RIP Mr Wilder. The world is a lot less funny today because you’re gone.

  • haremgirl

    I just want to say I will always remember Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. I saw him in that role as a child and I will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart for him. I think he was a man of many talents and a man of great kindness as well. He has left a wonderful legacy behind him for us to enjoy that, I feel, will remain…timeless. Thank you, Mr. Wilder, and may God bless you.

  • neil

    Awww, damn…. I guess he did a lot better than others but I’ll always remember his sadness when Gilda Radner died. It’s moments like that that we get a hint at the person behind the celebrity. Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Producers; some good memories from my younger days. Sounds like he had good people by him. So long, Gene Wilder.

  • chaz

    Very sad!! He will forever be remembered!

  • Fred Mohawk

    Loved this guy! I won’t forget sitting up watching him on the late night movies in the 70′s and 80′s, he always made me laugh. What a way to end a night. Thanks for the good times.

    “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. They’re people of the land. The common clay of the New West. You know – morons.” Waco Kid.

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  • CanadianCowgirl1955

    You will be lovingly missed Gene Wilder. Thanks for the laughs. I’m sure you’ll be keeping them laughing in Heaven. R.I.P.

  • Sprite

    Rip, poor old codger, it was a real family treat watching Gene as a chocolatier.

  • Sprite

    To reflect, on second thoughts :)
    ‘player’, a piano player with his sheet music, loved smiles and was Gene Wilder on wildlife.
    >
    MIttiga ngarra mayra
    wimbi wimbi junjijar-
    -walla walla weama ma-ma
    Park
    Meaning ‘meeting place of the young and
    old where the spring breeze is surpassed
    only by the adequate seating and shade…
    and excellent parking facilities’…Park
    .
    ……………………..courtesy, “Black Comedy”
    Thanked

  • Robin Manford

    Poor use of words. “Keeping it secret” implies some hidden shame. It wasn’t. It was an illness. It was something private that Wilder and his family wished to keep private, as was their right or anybody’s.

  • toffy

    God’s Blessings to Gene Wilder and all his Family and Friends. The tribute was wonderful. He and Family made the best choice for him in the last years. Smiles mean so much.

  • Renee Davis

    I applaud his career. I think he was a good actor.

    That being said, my husband DIED last year from dementia! I didn’t / wasn’t attacking him.

    EVERY chance I get I talk to anyone who will listen, I talk to people just starting the journey. I talk to people that have never been touched by dementia. I talk to people who have a loved one with the disease and refuse to do / talk / tell anything or anyone because it’s ‘embarrassing’ or ‘old-timers’ or ‘well she’s getting on on years’ Bullcrap!

    I remember when people said “the big c” instead of saying the word cancer. Now there is so much attention about every kind and type of “the big c” that it can’t be ignored and the treatments and remission are beyond belief.

    I’ve lived and breathed, up close and personal dementia for many years, yet people I know hide their loved ones disease and refuse to talk about it. Because it’s ‘mental illness’

    It hides and discourages the idea that this is a world-wide physical disease and needs to be addressed very publicly and with great attention!!!

    I do begrudge the hiding of a disease if it means one more person has to watch their husband die… bleeding memories, tears and love throughout the years.

    Peace to you Susan

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