Annette Funicello passed away on Monday after a long, 25-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis, and ET's own Mary Hart is back to remember the extraordinary interviews she had with the former Disney Mouseketeer and beach movie icon; both when Annette first announced her battle publicly in 1992 and later that decade when she had deteriorated significantly from the disease.
"I was very saddened to hear the news about Annette's passing," says Mary. "She was such a wonderful, loving, happy person, and my thoughts are with her family, including her loving husband Glen, who really took such incredible care of her throughout these many years."
Mary recalls the day ET got the phone call requesting that she come and sit down with Annette because she had a big announcement to make. "In the '80s people were not very comfortable talking about diseases that they had," she observes. "People were just not open about it, so going into Annette's home that day was incredibly moving."
Mary remembers meeting a woman of courage and optimism, saying,"There was something about her spirit, her sweetness and approachability that I think everybody fell in love with, and when I walked into her house that day to hear this sad new, she was still that same person; she was upbeat, she was positive, she wasn't going to let this disease beat her down, and that came through."
Mary returned several years later with a stack of letters of encouragement and love from her fans. Despite Annette's deterioration and difficulty with speech, "She had that same spirit. … It meant a lot to her to know that she had legions of fans out there who were pulling for her, praying for her, sending positive thoughts and wishes."