Gene Wilder, a man I grew up knowing as Willy Wonka from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ sadly passed away on Monday due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
His nephew 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.
One of the greats, sadly lost but forever in our hearts, our childhoods and for many children growing up who will have the pleasure of seeing a truly amazing movie, whether on TV or a DVD. Gene’s legacy, art and talent will live on forever.