This Is The Beautiful Reason Why Gene Wilder Kept His Illness A Secret

GeneWilderWillyWonka1Paramount Pictures

Gene Wilder, remembered by many for his lead role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, died Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

Tributes from the comedy world came within minutes of the news emerging, but perhaps the most beautiful statement came from his nephew, who revealed why Wilder decided to keep his illness a secret.

Jordan Walker-Pearlman announced it was his uncle’s dedication to the magic of his most famous character, Willy Wonka, that drove him to keep his battle with Alzheimer’s private.

He said in his statement:

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.

Walker-Pearlman added that the disease ‘never stole [Wilder’s] ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality,’ and he continued to enjoy ‘art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen.’

The revelation has prompted an outpour of emotion from fans:

[tweet conversation=”false”]

[tweet conversation=”false”]

[tweet conversation=”false”]

[tweet conversation=”false”]

Born Jerome Silberman, the comic actor also starred in classic films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. He had previously been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

And Hollywood hasn’t forgotten him:

RIP Gene Wilder – you were one of the great ones.