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Annette Funicello
Heart graphic~ America's Sweetheart ~ Heart graphic
by Dolores Hurtt

 

Annette Funicello in the Mickey Mouse Club
Annette Funicello
in Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club

American has lost a treasure with the passing of Annette Funicello. She died on April 8, 2013, after a long and difficult battle with multiple sclerosis. She was a role model for how to live through a devastating illness and do it with grace.

Annette was born October 22, 1942 in Utica, New York to parents Joseph and Virginia Funicello. When she was four years old, her family relocated to Los Angeles, California. They enrolled Annette in dance classes and singing lessons to try to help her overcome shyness. She excelled in both and at age 9, she won a beauty contest.

She was cast as the Swan Queen in a production of Swan Lake. Walt Disney saw her perform and hired her to be an actress for Disney Productions. She became a star with the Disney Corp. acting in several Disney movies, becoming a singing sensation at the same time.

She is fondly remembered as a Mouseketeer with the Mickey Mouse Club, along with several others who became actors and actresses, but she was the most loved of all. She later starred in "Beach Blanket" movies with Frank Avalon. These "surfer movies' were a huge hit with teens. She remained a Mouseketeer during that time, with Walt Disney's blessing. All he asked is that she wear a modest bathing suit, not a bikini. Walt remained her mentor and a "second father figure" for her during the remainder of his life. 40 years after she began she said "Those were the happiest year of her life".

 

In 1987,she reunited with Franke Avalon to make a movie called "Back To The Beach." It was during the filming of that movie she started to have the first signs of her MS She found it difficult to walk and was dizzy some of the time. In 1989 she received the diagnosis. Her MS was a rapidly deteriorating disease and in 1992, she went public with the news of her disease. Rumors were circulating that she had a problem with alcoholism, due to the stagger she had developed. She decided to make the news of the disease public to dispel the rumor.

In 1987,she reunited with Franke Avalon to make a movie called "Back To The Beach." It was during the filming of that movie she started to have the first signs of MS. She found it difficult to walk and was dizzy some of the time. In 1989 she received the diagnosis. Her MS was a rapidly deteriorating disease and in 1992, she went public with the news of her illness. Rumors were circulating that she had a problem with alcoholism, due to the stagger she had developed. She decided to make the news of the disease public to dispel the rumor.

In 1992 she was inducted as a "Disney Legend".

Teddy bear by Annette FunicelloShe opened the "Annette Funicello Fund For Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation. She continued to contribute to it during her lifetime. At the time of her death, the family requested donations be sent to that cause, rather than have the money spent of flowers.

As her illness progressed, she wrote a book about her life with MS titled "A Dream Is A Wish". A "made for TV movie" came out in 1995 based on her book. At the very end there was a scene of her wheeling away in her wheel chair with her as a cameo her in the scene.

During a trip to Los Angeles when she was a child of four, she had a severe case of Chicken Pox. While her parents went into a restaurant she had to stay in the car with someone. Her parents felt so bad for her, they bought a little brown bear to give to her. She named him "Brownie". She kept him for many years, until he just fell apart. During her career, many fans sent her bears from around the world and she treasured each of them.

As she became less able to be out, she wanted to do something special. She loved watching the home shopping venue, QVC and Teddy Bear by Annette Funicelloseeing the lovely dolls being displayed. She began working on a line of teddy bears and began the "Annette Funicello Collectible Teddy Bear Co.". She enlisted the help of the worlds top teddy bear artists, including Lisa Appleberry. Barbara King, Carol Black, Joanne Mitchell and Cristy Firmage. She worked along side of them, designing lovely bears and their costumes. She especially loved "Girl Bears" because they could use so many themes in their designs. The artists were thrilled to work with Annette and claimed she was as lovely in person as people imagined she would be.

Each bear had a special meaning for her and she felt a connection to each new creation. Her bears were designed to convey a sense of humor, romance or friendship. Each bear was an exclusive limited edition, but she worked to keep them affordable. All were made from mohair and plush. Her very favorite were the "Angel Bears". Each limited edition came with an angels pin. A portion of each sale went to her foundation. The last collection in the series was made in 2004.

Annette also had a fragrence of her own "Cello by Annette."

She and her husband had been settled in a modest home that caught fire and burned March 3rd, 2013. Everyone survived, but she had to be hospitalized for smoke inhailation.

Annette passed away on April 8, 2013 from complications of MS. The world lost a lovely and talented lady. Rest in peace, Annette. You will be missed. Thank you for the beauty you added to our world.

 

Photo:
Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club, 1956, Source: Wikipedia Commons (public domain)


Citations:


CTV News Video Network, Annette's Story: A Hollywood legend's struggles with multiple sclerosis, 2013
http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?playlistId=1.985726

bio. true story, Annette Funicello.biography, 2013
http://www.biography.com/people/annette-funicello-9542632

Wikipedia, Annette Funicello
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annette_Funicello

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