Annette Funicello
April 8, 2013
NEW YORK (AP) — Annette Funicello, the most popular Mouseketeer on "The Mickey Mouse Club," who matured to a successful career in records and '60s beach party movies but struggled with illness in middle age and after, died Monday, The Walt Disney Co. said. She was 70.

She died peacefully at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., of complications from multiple sclerosis, the company said.

Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement about her ailment. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old.

The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney's television kiddie "club," an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.

Cast after Disney saw her at a dance recital, she soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.

Her devotion to Walt Disney remained throughout her life. "He was the dearest, kindest person, and truly was like a second father to me," she remarked. "He was a kid at heart."

When "The Mickey Mouse Club" ended, Annette (as she was often billed) was the only club member to remain under contract to the studio. She appeared in such Disney movies as "Johnny Tremain," "The Shaggy Dog," "The Horsemasters," "Babes in Toyland," "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" and "The Monkey's Uncle."

She also became a recording star, singing on 15 albums and hit singles such as "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess."

Outgrowing the kid roles by the early '60s, Annette teamed with Frankie Avalon in a series of movies for American-International, the first film company to exploit the burgeoning teen market.

The filmmakers weren't aiming for art, and they didn't achieve it. As Halliwell's Film Guide says of "Beach Party": "Quite tolerable in itself, it started an excruciating trend."

But the films had songs, cameos by older stars and a few laughs and, as a bonus to latter-day viewers, a look back at a more innocent time. The 1965 "Beach Blanket Bingo," for example, featured subplots involving a mermaid, a motorcycle gang and a skydiving school run by Don Rickles, and comic touches by silent film star Buster Keaton.

Among the other titles: "Muscle Beach Party," "Bikini Beach," "Beach Blanket Bingo," "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" and "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine."

The shift in teen tastes begun by the Beatles in 1964 and Funicello's first marriage the following year pretty much killed off the genre.

But she was somehow never forgotten though mostly out of the public eye for years. She and Avalon staged a reunion in 1987 with "Back to the Beach." It was during the filming that she noticed she had trouble walking — the first insidious sign of MS.

When it was finally diagnosed, she later recalled, "I knew nothing about (MS), and you are always afraid of the unknown. I plowed into books."

Her symptoms were relatively mild at first, but gradually she lost control of her legs, and she feared people might think she was drunk. So she went public with her ordeal in 1992.

She wrote of her triumphs and struggles in her 1994 autobiography, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" — the title taken from a Disney song. In 1995, she appeared briefly in a television docudrama based on her book. And she spoke openly about the degenerative effects of MS.

"My equilibrium is no more; it's just progressively getting worse," she said. "But I thank God I just didn't wake up one morning and not be able to walk. You learn to live with it. You learn to live with anything, you really do."

"I've always been religious. This just makes me appreciate the Lord even more because things could always be worse. I know he will see me through this."

Funicello was born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, N.Y., and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 4. She began taking dance lessons the following year and won a beauty contest at 9. Then came the discovery by Disney in 1955.

"I have been blessed to have a mentor like Walt Disney," she said 40 years later. "Those years were the happiest of my life. I felt that back then. I feel the same today."

Asked about the revisionist biographies that have portrayed Disney in a negative light, she said, "I don't know what went on in the conference rooms. I know what I saw. And he was wonderful."

In 1965, Funicello married her agent, Jack Gilardi, and they had three children, Gina, Jack and Jason. The couple divorced 18 years later, and in 1986 she married Glen Holt, a harness racehorse trainer. After her film career ended, she devoted herself to her family. Her children sometimes appeared on the TV commercials she made for peanut butter.

The beach films featured ample youthful skin. But not Funicello's.

She remembered in 1987: "Mr. Disney said to me one day, 'Annette, I have a favor to ask of you. I know all the girls are wearing bikinis, but you have an image to uphold. I would appreciate it if you would wear a one-piece suit.' I did, and I never regretted it."

FRAZIER MOORE, Associated Press

Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Published by Orlando Sentinel on Apr. 8, 2013.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
Add a Message
100 Entries
Such a loss, been watching lots of Disney programs with you, wish you could still be here ...your beautiful face and kind innocent being is still with us, R.I.P. dear Annette.

Barb Dallabrida
December 6, 2020
Annette I am a big fan of yours may you rest in peace Debra!
May 9, 2020
I loved you the first time I saw you! The day you threw a kiss at the end of that program, I felt the warmest peaceful feeling. You have always been a sweet memory I will have till I die. Forever!!!!
Norman Corbin
May 1, 2019
Therese Szeniawski
November 10, 2018
I was only a baby when the frist Micky mouse show came out but as i became a toddler i watch the show all the way till i was a in grade school. I watch everyone of your movies when you where young all the beach party movies and watch all them movies again an again when i was an adult. The Mickey mouse was the best for childern. I used my imagination as a kid not what these kids do today. I wish they would put all the reruns so i could have my grandchildern watch you. The show was the best it brings so my memories of my childhood. We well miss seeing yoursmiling face. Love you rest in peace with our heavenly father
Beverly Mader
October 12, 2018
You are now singing with the angels. No more pain.
Sherry Gibson
October 1, 2018
My dream was to see you in person I've loved you 55 years. Rip sweet lady. You will be missed
Sherry Gibson
October 1, 2018
How much less beautiful would the world have been without you. Your grace and courage inspires me even as my heart weeps for your suffering. Thank the Lord you had a husband to love you and sufferi with you on behalf of all of us who loved and still do love you.
Fr. Jacob Kulp
May 25, 2018
I'm so sorry for your all lost. I know how it feels to lose a mother. I lost my mom in 2000 when I was 3 years old. I love Disney channel I watch annette on the internet I'm a huge fan of all of the Disney stars.
Danielle Burke
October 18, 2017
Dear sweet Annette loved all your movies so very happy that the beach ones are still on TV. Sure wish I had all my Annette hard bond story books still.
Sing with the angels glad your not suffering anymore.
Renee Jensen
October 16, 2017
I grew up watching Annette from Mouseteer to all the Beach movies with Paul Anka she will always hold a special place in my heart is now 2017 and I just read about her going to Heaven but she is in a new celestial body no more sickness and singing everyday.. God bless All the family. Gloria from San Antonio Texas
October 6, 2017
I miss you so much Annette. You will always be the dearest friend I ever had. Remember my song, I sang for you, you'll always be My Annette

Vince Smith
Vince Smith
May 14, 2017
I feel blessed to have grown up with you in my living room watching you on the mickey mouse club and all the wonderful movies you were in. Such a special person you were, A precious Angel. Love you and may you RIP dear one.
April 25, 2017
I loved you in the serials "Annette" and "Spin and Marty" on the Mickey Mouse Club. [I even read the fictional books about you by Whitman Publishing].
Won't ever forget you, and pray that you are with the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary now, surrounded by the angels and saints.
February 1, 2017
I still miss you Annette and taking to to you. You were the dearest friend I had and I was lucky to have you.

Vince Smith
Vince Smith
January 24, 2017
Nicole VanBibber-Rosales
December 29, 2016
Nicole VanBibber-Rosales
December 28, 2016
Nicole Rosales
December 28, 2016
Valenda Newell
November 8, 2016
You are thought of often and lately I spend more time in the past.
October 22, 2016
I had a crush on you almost as much as Sandra Dee!

Lazy L Ranch
Marthasville, MO
michael laacey
October 7, 2016
God bless you Annette, you were a beautiful lady, may God keep you in his
loving arms and in his eternal light forever. Rest in peace. May he watch over your family.
Rita Senkowski
August 11, 2016
It is just recently that I have become aware of the courage, strength, and bravery that Annette showed to the world. She was and is a superb role model in so many ways. Rest in exquisite peace, dear Annette.

Ellen Romanoff
Baltimore, Maryland
February 12, 2016
She definitely is missed. She was a genuine beautiful lady and a wonderful happy pleasant person. I grew up with her Musketeers' on TV, her movies and her songs. May she rest in peace and God Bless her husband, children and family.
Carole Basilicato
February 9, 2016
January 10, 2016
The son(s) of the Living Loving God Jashua, Heavenly Father God Ascended would like the family to know soon she will walk the earth again in spirit, Telling her tail of woe!
Much Love,
Jashua, Jesus Christ resurrect and the other son of God Nicholas (spiritual twins)
December 20, 2015
Rachel Smith
October 10, 2015
Although I never wrote Annette a letter during her Mouseketeer days, I, a little young Fourth Grader at Bandini Street School in San Pedro CA, was entranced by this dark haired beauty. I'd rush home after school so as not to miss The Mickey Mouse Club.
My eyes were glued wherever she appeared on the screen.
May she hear Jesus voice when God gives the OK for the promised Resurrection to commence.
I look forward to meeting you in person, God willing, Annette.
Robert Ponce
August 18, 2015
To a great fried, you will be missed everyday. When I hear the song I recorded for you "My Annette", I will always think of you. Vince Smith
vince smith
July 15, 2015
God bless you and we miss and love are an angle in my book.God bless also your husband for loving you the way he did.with love always Sheila G Gomez.
Sheila gomez
June 19, 2015
Love you elaine
elaine hunter
May 9, 2015
I was diagnosed with MS around 1987, and wrote Annette a letter about it. Six weeks later, I got a very nice letter from Annette, and she share with me that she felt bad about my diagnosis and that she was sorry, but she told me that "Things Happen for a reason. Just keep your chin up, be positive, and please by all means keep me posted on how your doing..We're all in this together. God Bless. Love, Annette." I have that letter framed and in the years of my ms it has Progressed to PPMS. I now use a walker, my speech is slurred, but I'm alive and doing ok. I have bad days. Annette never refused to say hi to her fans. She was graceful, very nice, and a great moral booster! God needed a Mouskateer, He got Annette. We miss you!! God Bless your family! We will never forget you. Especially me. Thank you for the letter Annette. it meant a lot to me.
Rob Martin
April 22, 2015
Dearest's now 2 years since your passing & the tears flow just the same as it did then. Your beauty, charm, talent & presence will never be matched again. I've never met you but every picture I see of you fills me with such joy & pride & yes sadness. You are with The Lord & happy. My prayers are with your family & friends as your memory is forever. Love & miss you Annette as time goes by. R I P!!
Marie Christiano
April 8, 2015
To a wonderful lady who will always be missed. And who will be remember for her beauty and courage. I always love her on Mickey Mouse Club and her movie about her life. May she be dancing and singing in heaven.
Carol Culp
April 8, 2015
it's a sad day for all it's been two years Annette has passed away tears in my eyes when I think of you my heart get's cold when I'm looking at you at night I pray for Annette her soul to keep
bruno perselli
April 7, 2015
Annette was a dear friend & a wonderful lady. I miss her greatly.
david short
April 5, 2015
When life gets hard as it often does, I think of Annette and gain strength to go on. She was my peer age and we loved her from afar.
Deborah Hawkins
April 2, 2015
will miss you, 1955 mickey mouse club watched every day after school. Seen all of your movies
johnny stewart
March 10, 2015
Charles D. Wallander
Charles D. Wallander
February 6, 2015
My brother knew your cousin Jimmy and had a crush on you??
December 21, 2014
My brother knew your cousin Jimmy and had a crush on you??
December 21, 2014
Grew up with Annette Funicello on the Muskateer Show and also movies she was in. She was a wonderfull actress. I pray for her family
Diana Miller
December 10, 2014
In your memory Annette today & always. Prayers continue for your family & friends. You are loved. RIP
Marie Christiano
December 8, 2014
Still remembering you
November 22, 2014
In your Loving Memory Annette. Prayers for your family & friends. You are loved & missed. RIP.
Marie Christiano
November 8, 2014
My first love.
October 23, 2014
A Happy Angel Birthday Annette!! I know you are spending it in the most wonderful way!! You are loved & missed very much!! Prayers for your family & friends in remembering your special day!!
Marie Christiano
October 22, 2014
If my memory serves me right today is your birthday. So i want to wish you a very happy birthday. I know you probably remember Pope John Paul2nd. Well today is feast day. He was made a saint this past April 27th. I think it is so wonderful your birthday is also his feast day. He was such a wonderful man full of love and empathy for all mankind. But he loved Jesus and was a very faithful servant to Jesus. Again Annette a very happy birthday in HEAVEN. GOD BLESS YOU With Peace CariAnne??
CariAnne Underwood
October 22, 2014
My thoughts are with your family. I remember watching you and the other Mousketeers. I was named after you and Cheryl. Thank you for the name sake.

Cheryl Annette B., Helmer, IN
October 22, 2014
God Bless, Annette. Rest now in gentle peace.
October 22, 2014
to Annette how I wish you are still here with us I miss you so much I guess you are in a better place now I used TO call you my princess now your my beautiful angel you will always be in my heart.
bruno perselli
October 22, 2014
In Memory of your Beautiful Legacy & will continue to pray for you & your family & friends & for a cure for MS. You are loved & missed. RIP Annette!!
Marie Christiano
October 8, 2014
I will always love you. I also am very religious. I believe in the here-after. I hope to meet you there and be your friend.
Penny Meadows
October 1, 2014
I have warm memories watching the 'Mickey Mouse Club' as a young child on black & white TV featuring Annette.

The innocence of those days are sadly forever gone. She will be missed.
Lee Lambert
September 30, 2014
You are being missed .
James Spurgeon
September 3, 2014
That's Amore Annette,,, ODIO MIO
August 28, 2014
You will be missed.I loved all your movies,I grew up watching all your great moves.I just wished this new generation could enjoy them like we all did when we were young.May you rest in peace now yo beautiful angel.Know that you will always be missed & loved!!!
lora forbes
August 16, 2014
In memory of Annette's Love of Life & how she loved living it with family & friends. You are not forgot you live on in our hearts. RIP your family & friends are in my thoughts & prayers!! God Bless!
Marie Christiano
August 8, 2014
Loved talking with you at Disney. Plus sharing close birthday. You are now with uncle walt. Run dance walk love will always have a place in my heart.
Susan Sholaas
July 19, 2014
This candle is in your precious memory never to be forgot!! You are missed very much by all who knew you & loved you near & far!! RIP in The Lord's Arms with Joy!!
Marie Christiano
July 8, 2014
Growing up your were my idol. I bought all your 45 records. When your movies came out I bought them. I introduced my Granddaughter to your music & movies & she loves them. You will be missed by all.
June 20, 2014
To Annette Funicello,
You were a very talented actress. I loved watching you in your beach movies with actor/singer Frankie Avalon. I also enjoyed watching you in the mickey mouse club. My prayers go to your family and friends. Lisa Weiner
Lisa Weiner
June 9, 2014
Annette may God be with you always we all miss your Mickey Mouse Club on TV. RIP Annette Kenneth Frank Daly City CA You will be truly missed
Kenneth Frank
June 5, 2014
Annette may God be with you always we all miss your Mickey Mouse Club on TV. RIP Annette Kenneth Frank Daly City CA
Kenneth Frank
June 5, 2014
I have EVERY one of your Beach Party Movies Annette and at 59 I still watch them today. My dream was ALWAYS to meet you but I never had the chance. However, I know we will meet in Heaven. Rest in peace my good friend. You will NEVER be forgotten.
May 15, 2014
I light a candle In Your Memory & continue to prayer for your families & friends & for a cure for MS! RIP Annette!!
Marie Christiano
May 8, 2014
Tonia Lenza
April 11, 2014
Annette, in 1985 I was diagnosed with PPMS...I was devastated and broken hearted. I sent you a letter to tell you about my own experience. About a month later, you sent me a letter back and this is what you wrote:
"Dear Rob:
Hi and thank you for writing to me. My heart is saddened by your recent diagnosis but I'm here to tell you, life does get better. Everything happens for a reason. God doesn't give us no more than we can handle. However, I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and positive thinking. Having your family and friends around you helps too. Keep your chin up. I will certainly keep you in my prayers dear friend. Don't worry. Things will be ok. Keep me posted. Love, and God's blessings,,
Annette." I will never forget that..I have that letter framed.
Rob Martin
April 9, 2014
As a child growing up,I wanted my hair fixed like Annette. I loved watching her movies. May you rest in peace.
carolyn stacy
April 8, 2014
A year has gone by since your passing.
Still remembered ,never forgotten !
Dio benedica , Annette Bella.
Joe C
April 8, 2014
A year ago today we learned our favorite Mouseketeer Annette Funicello passed away!!! Our hearts sank with disbelief!!! You were truly one beautiful, talented & charming woman that we adored!!! I know there is an afterlife & I look forward to it!!! God Bless you for all the wonderful memories you left & God Bless your family & friends!! Always in my thoughts & prayers!!! You are LOVED!!!
Marie Christiano
April 8, 2014
An amazing beautiful young lady. Someone I respected throughout her lifetime. She was one of those people I never wanted her to get old, I never wanted her to leave us in this world. I hope someday when I pass I will be able to meet her. I never had the chance in this lifetime......maybe next one I will. God Bless her family and Bless you Annette.......just so beautiful.
todd theobald
April 8, 2014
Love you all ways rip Nannette King Gallatin Tenn
April 4, 2014
You sure showed a very upbeat mood about all that you had to suffer through each day. A very amazing lady your family must have been so very proud of you. Sing with the angels dear sweet lady.
Renee Jensen
April 1, 2014
It is now 11 months since you entered The Gates of Heaven to be with The Lord & His Angels!! The Lord is Loving your charm & dancing for all in Heaven. You are missed & loved worldwide!! Prayers for a cure & family & friends!
Marie Christiano
March 10, 2014
Dear Annette,
I rushed home from school to see the latest Mickey Mouse Club episode when I was a kid. Like all the other boys I had a crush on you. The Lord has you now and I know you are a fresh breath of air in heaven.

God bless you for the happiness you brought me and God bless your family.
Ron Harris
March 5, 2014
March 3, 2014
February 17, 2014
It's 10 months that you are in The Lord's Arms!! Many people love you & miss you world wide. You are in my thoughts & prayers & I continue to pray for your families & a cure for MS!! God Bless U!!
Marie Christiano
February 8, 2014
God Bless Annette.
We miss you in CA.
Love, Rose, Tiny Girl and Siam
January 28, 2014 dear you are missed
and loved by many.. I grew up with
you..thinking of you, Rose, Tiny and Siam
January 28, 2014
R.I.P. Annette
yolanda gaunt
January 14, 2014
Your'e the reason I wathced mickey mouse club as a kid, God Bless you and your Family, and may peace be upon you forever.
teacher poet
January 12, 2014
9 months have gone now since your beauty & talent graced this world!! You continue to be in my thoughts & prayers. RIP Annette. You are missed & loved!!
Marie Christiano
January 9, 2014
May you celebrate with The Lord & His Angels a New Year in Heaven. God rest your soul! You were so loved!
Marie Christiano
December 31, 2013
The lights at the MMC, have gone dark... RIP Annette and thank you for the memories. Even in black & white you were cute.
December 31, 2013
December 29, 2013
You were one of my teen idols and role model and have been an inspiration all your life ! The Lord knew an angel would return home to sing once again amongst the heavenly Choir as he eased your earthly pain and took your soul back. But you will live on dear Annette, forever in the hearts and lives of all who have known you, have heard your music and enjoyed your movies and had the pleasure of your company!! RIP always!!
Patricia & Geary Groman
December 28, 2013
I grew up watching The Mickey Mouse Club. I'll never forget watching Annette.
Karen Jelliff
December 25, 2013
A Blessed Merry Christmas Annette!! Enjoy the celebration of Jesus' Birth with Him & with His Angels!! Love you!!
Marie Christiano
December 25, 2013
I was lucky to have worked with Annette while on tour many years ago. Anytime you can meet your childhood idle you are very lucky. She was just as her image, warm and friendly. I consider myself lucky to have not only met my ideal but worked with her.
Doc Nelson
December 17, 2013
Your passing is now 8 months but you live on in many hearts!!! You are always in my thoughts & prayers & I pray for your families also. I also pray for a cure. You have God & his angels loving you!!
Marie Christiano
December 8, 2013
I loved you so much I named my daughter after you. she is dark headed like you and little thank yu for many good years. jerri rucker
geraldean rucker
December 8, 2013
Sarete perso qui, ma sarete felici in Paradiso. Danza per Gesù!
Enrico Figlio Di Tommaso
December 3, 2013
Thank you for the wonderful memories from our childhood and growing up.
Wanda Welsh
November 30, 2013
A Blessed Happy Thanksgiving in Heaven. You brought joy all your life & you are missed & you were loved much!!
Marie Christiano
November 29, 2013
Dance to Jesus
November 27, 2013
May God Bless You Forever...Pacem.
Assunta LEO
November 27, 2013
she was my hero, I strived to be like her. She was known to be as beautiful inside as out. May she dance in Heaven!

Much Love,
Phyllis Hicks
November 26, 2013
To Annette Funicello,
You were a great actress and mouseketter. My prayers go to you and your family. Lisa Weiner
Lisa Weiner
November 17, 2013