Gene Wilder, the prolific actor who brought to life characters like the neurotic accountant in “The Producers” and the eccentric scientist in “Young Frankenstein” with such adeptness that they became landmarks in his career chart, died on Monday in Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of 83.
According to his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the Willy Wonka star was suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease but did not disclose his condition until the last day of his life. His nephew described Wilder’s courage in a touching statement, saying the actor never failed to recognize his loved ones and live his life.
“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,” Walker-Pearlman said in a statement. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
He added that Gene Wilder continued to enjoy his life in every way he could whether its enjoying art, music, kissing his wife or dancing down the church aisle during a wedding as the father of the groom and the ring bearer.
“I had no idea Gene Wilder had Alzheimer’s. Why can’t you create a scientist to cure Alzheimer’s and dementia?” a fan tweeted.
The Daily Variety reported that Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989, but he did not die of the illness, according to his family. The actor was born on June 11, 1993, in Milwaukee and was named Jerome Silberman. He went to the University of Iowa to study theatre and communications. He also went to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1955.
One of his most notable works include playing the role of Leo Bloom in ‘The Producers’ in 1968. The role earned him an Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor.
The actor is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Boyer, and an adopted daughter. According to IMDb, Boyer, whom Gene Wilder married in 1991, was a costume designer and has been listed as a speech-pathologist.