WASHINGTON – Annette Funicello, whose girl-next-door beauty never faded for millions of American baby boomers who met her as a Mouseketeer in the 1950s, idolized her through her 1960s beach movies and thereafter remembered her voice and smile as pleasures of a simpler time, died April 8 at a hospital in Bakersfield, California. She was 70.
Her death, of complications from multiple sclerosis, was announced by the Walt Disney Co. Funicello had suffered from the degenerative neurological disorder for more than two decades and became a prominent advocate for increased medical research.
In Walt Disney’s entertainment empire, Funicello was a princess. Although she wasn’t one of the animated fairy-tale heroines — despite having Cinderella’s humility and Snow White’s gentleness — she belonged to the real-life television royalty of “The Mickey Mouse Club.”