BURBANK, Calif., (April 8, 2013)—Actress Annette Funicello died Monday at a hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., of complications from multiple sclerosis, which she battled for more than 25 years.
She was 70.
She was a member of the cast of the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s who became a pop icon in the 1960s as the star of a series of popular teen-oriented movies.
"Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the
Disney family, synonymous with the word Mouseketeer, and a true Disney Legend,” Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney
Company, said Monday.
“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,” he said.
Funicello was born on Oct. 22, 1942 in Utica, N.Y., but her family moved to California when she was 4.
Walt Disney discovered her when she was 13 and dancing the lead in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank.
He invited her to audition for his new series, The Mickey Mouse Club, and she was hired on the spot as a Mouseketeeer.
The show debuted in October 1955.
Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but she remained cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight image as a teenage star.