Bidding Farewell To Another Chunk Of My Childhood

Written by Ali Seca on August 30, 2016

Bidding Farewell To Another Chunk Of My Childhood

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Actor Gene Wilder (born Jerry Silberman) passed away on the evening of August 29th, 2016. Although simply labelling him as an ‘actor’ seems wildly inadequate. In paying his respects, Jim Carrey aptly called Wilder “one of the funniest and sweetest energies ever to take a human form”, and I think ‘energy’ is the best way one could sum up the late performer’s personality both off and on camera.

Wilder was perhaps most widely known for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory; however, was also nominated for oscars for his roles in The Producers and Young Frankenstein. I still remember the day I received my cassette tape of Willy Wonka at age four. I climbed into the purple Flintstones tent in my parent’s living room and watched the movie over and over until I had to be peeled away at dinnertime. I’m 21 today and still watch it religiously once a month (and not just as an excuse to eat three bags of M&Ms in one sitting). From the very moment Wilder is introduced as Willy Wonka, hobbling to the gates of the factory to greet the golden ticket winners, he captivates the screen. His hauntingly blue eyes, eccentric tone, and wavering voice encapsulate everything you’d imagine Willy Wonka to be — larger than life. Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka was the first instance of magic I ever remember witnessing. To this day, I absolutely refuse to watch Johnny Depp’s rendition of the role and movie — there can only be one Wonka.

Wilder was just as much a gem off-screen as he was on-screen. Although he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and eventually passed away due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease, he chose to keep this information from his fans to avoid any distress and confusion. Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said, “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

Wilder co-founded the Gilda’s Club in honour of his wife, whom he lost to cancer in 1989. Gilda’s Club acted as a cancer outreach network and support system for families in similar circumstances. He was known to have an undying passion for love, art, and music even in his last days.

Perhaps the most poetic of it all is the fact that “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” played in the room as Wilder passed. 2016 has been a year of immense loss, taking multiple parts of our childhood with each passing month, but at least we can be thankful that their legacies live on.

Farewell to the one and only Willy Wonka.

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