NEW YORK (AP) -- Walt Disney Co. says actress Annette Funicello has died at age 70.
The Walt Disney website says she died at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California.
The website says she died from complications due to Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years.
[SLIDESHOW: ANNETTE FUNICELLO
Funicello was born in New York but later moved to Los Angeles. Walt Disney discovered her at the age of 13 when she was dancing at a show in Burbank.
He invited her to join a new TV show called the Mickey Mouse Club and the rest is history. Funicello emerged as the star of the group, according to her bio on the Walt Disney website, after the show debuted in 1955.Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company issued this statement:
“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.”
Donations can be made in Annette’s memory to The Annette Funicello Research Fund