Funicello was diagnosed with MS in 1987 and following her diagnosis set up The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. The fund is “dedicated to funding research into the cause, treatment and cure of multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases and continues to be an active charity.”
Born October 22, 1942 in Utica, New York. Funicello became a beloved star of television and films, kicking off her career as one of the Mouseketeers on the Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. She went on to star in feature films including The Shaggy Dog (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), and The Monkey’s Uncle (1965). In the 1960s, Annette paired up with Frankie Avalon for Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).
In the 1960s Funicello also kept busy recording Top 40 singles including “Tall Paul,” “First Name Initial,” “How Will I Know My Love,” and “Pineapple Princess,” and released albums Hawaiiannette (1960), Italiannette (1960), and Dance Annette (1961).
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, had this to say about the passing of Funicello: “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.”
Oscar®-winning composer and Disney legend Richard Sherman said, “Annette’s sweet, unassuming spirit, her love of people, and her capacity to exude kindness and good feelings to everyone she met was part of her beautiful charisma. Because the songs we wrote for her brought us to the attention of Walt, Bob and I always referred to Annette as our ‘lucky star.’ My wife, Elizabeth, joins me in sending a heartfelt aloha with much love to our ‘Pineapple Princess.’”
Annette’s friend and fellow Mouseketeer Sharon Baird said, “Throughout all the years we were friends she never changed from that sweet person who cared so much about others. She always had time for everyone; family, friends and fans alike. It’s no wonder she was America’s sweetheart.”
Walt Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller said, “Everyone who knew Annette loved and respected her. She was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, and was always so kind to everyone. She was also the consummate professional, and had such great loyalty to my father. Annette will always be very special to me and Ron.”
Our thoughts are with Annette Funicello’s family and friends at this difficult time. In lieu of flowers, donations in Annette’s memory can be made to The Annette Funicello Research Fund at annetteconnection.com.
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