Karen Pendleton, American actress and one of the original Mouseketeers, died on Sunday. She was 73.
The entertainer was best known for her time on the original Mickey Mouse Club TV show between 1955 and 1959. She was one of only nine children who starred in the original show during its entire run.
Pendleton was one of the youngest members of the Mouseketeers and was often paired with co-star Cubby O’Brien at the end of each episode, when they would perform Alma Mater, the Mickey Mouse Club goodbye theme.
The child star died of a heart attack in Fresno, Calif., according to Variety.
Pendleton’s daughter, Staci Bletscher, later confirmed her death in an official statement.
“My mom loved her Mouseketeer family,” she wrote. “Getting together with them was always a high point.”
Though Pendleton returned to school and stopped acting following the conclusion of the original Mickey Mouse Club, she attended many reunion shows and Disneyland events in the years before her death.
Bletscher added that reuniting with her former castmates and meeting many of her longtime fans were some of Pendleton’s favourite things to do.
“It gave her the opportunity to relive great memories and to meet so many Mickey Mouse Club fans that watched the show as kids and loved her,” Bletscher said. “Many told her that they named their daughters Karen in her honour.”
In 1983 — more than two decades after her acting career ended — a car crash left Pendleton paralyzed from the waist down. She used a wheelchair throughout the remainder of her life.
Following the crash, Pendleton enrolled in a post-secondary psychology program, where she eventually earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
From there, she began her psychology career by joining the board for the California Association of the Physically Handicapped. She also worked at a shelter for battered women.
Pendleton was born in Glendale, Calif., on Aug. 1, 1946. She was the youngest of three children.
She is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren.
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