— Annette Funicello, the dark-haired darling of TV’s “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s who further cemented her status as a pop-culture icon in the ’60s by teaming with Frankie Avalon in a popular series of “beach” movies, died today. She was 70.
Funicello, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987 and became a spokeswoman for treatment of the chronic, often-debilitating disease of the central nervous system, died at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., Walt Disney Co. spokesman Howard Green said.
Bob Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive, said: “Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word ‘Mousketeer,’ and a true Disney legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends, and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.”