For many a young man growing up in the postwar baby boomer era, Annette Funicello was the epitome of the girl next door. Her rise to stardom in the 50s and 60s made her a household name, and though she had faded from the celebrity spotlight decades ago, word of her death earlier this month at the age of 70 touched millions around the country.
When she joined the original “Mickey Mouse Club” at the age of 12, Funicello quickly became the single most popular member of the 24-person group. Following the show’s cancellation, Funicello entered into a contract with Disney Studios and began appearing in television, films, and even began recording her own music.
She appeared in several television shows in the mid-to-late 1950s, and even appeared on her own serialized program “Annette.”
After making her feature film debut in 1959’s “The Shaggy Dog,” she went on to appear in several other Disney movies, but as she matured she transitioned into a series of popular beach films. Many of those films she starred alongside her popular costar Frankie Avalon, and the two became an inseparable box office draw.
After mostly removing herself from the public spotlight to start a family, Ms. Funicello found out in the late 80s that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Funicallo battled the disease for decades, and it left her mostly comatose during the last several years of her life. She started the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases, a charitable organization dedicated to researching multiple sclerosis in hopes of finding a cure. She leaves behind a husband, three children, and three grandchildren.