Gene Wilder's Widow Pens Heartfelt Letter About His Illness

Willy Wonka during Pure Imagination

2017 is now in the rear view, and seems like it was a hard year for many. But one area in which it was better than the year before was in regards to celebrity deaths. 2016 saw a massive amount of legends leave us, especially beloved actors. One of the many icons who passed away that year was Gene Wilder, who has touched generations of moviegoers through his iconic performances. Wilder passed away after a struggle with Alzheimer's Disease, and his widow Karen Wilder has opened up about their mutual struggle with the degenerative disease. In her touching tribute, she mentions when she began to notice a change in Wilder's behaivor.

The first signs of trouble were small. Always the kindest, most tender man (if a fly landed on him, he waited for the fly to leave), suddenly I saw Gene lashing out at our grandson. His perception of objects and their distance from him became so faulty that on a bike ride together, he thought we were going to crash into some trees many feet away from us. Once, at a party with friends, when the subject of Young Frankenstein came up, he couldn't think of the name of the movie and had to act it out instead.

Gene Wilder was a comedian who seemed to have an absolutely joyous spirit. So for him to suddenly change his personality and become so easily irritated was a red flag for his wife Karen. Wilder also no doubt remembered the title of Young Frankenstein when he was well, as it is one of his most iconic roles. The movie is typical Mel Brooks magic, and features iconic performances by he and the great Madeline Kahn.

Karen Wilder's tribute to ABC also included a glimpse into the beloved actor's final moments. After years of watching her husband slowly disintegrate and cherishing the moments of joy that would occur, Karen recounted her last conversation with her late husband.

Gene died fifteen months ago. I was in the bed next to him when he took his last breaths. By that point, it had been days since he'd spoken. But on that last night, he looked me straight in the eye and said, three times over, 'I trust you.'

Now that is a seriously powerful goodbye for Karen and her beloved husband Gene Wilder to have. It shows that, despite how one's body and mind may fail, love truly has the ability to transcend. Gene's eventual passing may have been shocking and upsetting for his generations of fans, but it looks like there was some relief for the Mr. Wilder and his family.

CinemaBlend's thoughts continue to be with Karen Wilder and her family as the grieving process continues.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.