(RNN) – Annette Funicello, the original sweetheart from the Mickey Mouse Club has died at age 70.
Her family has confirmed to the entertainment show Extra that Funicello died from complications of multiple sclerosis.
"She's on her toes dancing in heaven... no more MS. My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us," Funicello's only daughter, Gina Gilardi, said in a statement to Extra.
Born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, NY, the actress could sing, dance and act. The petite star's path to fame would be echoed decades later by Britney Spears.
The Disney Fan Club tweeted their condolences, breaking the news to the world.
Funicello joined the Mickey Mouse Club in 1958, and quickly became the most popular Mouseketeer. Disney made sure she was still under contract to Disney even after the show was canceled.
The actress was so popular, she was simply known as "Annette."
She even recorded hit records under the company's label, Buena Vista, such as Tall Paul, Train of Love and Pineapple Princess.
Paul Anka wrote the songs Puppy Love and Put Your Head on My Shoulder about Funicello while they were dating.
The triple-threat saw more television success with roles in Make Room for Daddy and Zorro – not to mention her eponymous titled show Annette produced by Disney.
Funicello became an icon for beach movies, such as Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, and Beach Blanket Bingo. She was often paired with Frankie Avalon in those movies, making the two a box-office draw.
Although she didn't reveal she had multiple sclerosis until 1992, Funicello was diagnosed with the disease, and underwent brain surgery to reduce tremors.
In her later years, she lost the ability to walk and speak, and her family says she had been in a coma for the past couple of years.
She is survived by her three children from her first marriage, her first husband Jack Gilardi, and her second husband Glen Holt.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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