He kept his disease a secret from the public. The reason is extremely touching.
On August 29, 2016, the world lost a great comedic talent. Gene Wilder had been struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, but chose to keep his illness private until after his death. His nephew explains why in the statement below:
“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.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”
Wilder will be sorely missed, but luckily his films live on. This video compilation shows what he did best, which is to make us smile. Thanks for the laughter, Mr. Wilder!