Gene Wilder's brother-in-law speaks about his legacy
He was a movie icon. We are remembering two-time Oscar nominated actor Gene Wilder.
The Hollywood star is most remembered for his famous roles in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. He also worked with director Mel Brooks and comedian Richard Pryor in a string of successful comedies.
Wilder was also married to metro Detroit native and fellow comedian -- Gilda Radner. Tonight we spoke to her brother who still lives in the area.
"My personal relationship with him was always wonderful," said Michael Radner. "He was a really wonderful, kind person. In his characters, he always played this frenetic character, but in person, he was calm and collected and intellectual.
"The main thing besides all the joy and laughter that he gave to the world, and what a wonderful actor he was, and he did so many wonderful things."
Michael Radner also spoke about Wilder's devotion to his late wife Gilda Radner.
"The thing that impacted me most was how well he took care of Gilda when she was going through her illness until she finally passed away from cancer. He was so good to her. To see him and Gilda and the love they had between them, was always wonderful. He loved her, and for her, he was the love of her life.
"The legacy he's leaving behind, you think about it, every kid knows about Willie Wonka, and they grow up and remember Willie Wonka. And even for people who
didn't know Willie Wonka, they know Young Frankenstein, or Blazing Saddles, or all the funny things he did.
"He is something important for all of America and all the world. They lost something because he was somebody special."
Somebody special indeed. After his wife Gilda died of ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder founded Gilda's club in her memory. the purpose of the organization is to give cancer patients social and emotional support, and Gilda received that treatment from a place called the Wellness Community in California.
But when she moved to the east coast, there was no such place, so Gilda decided to start inviting people into her home to give other patients that same experience.
"It was just amazing that that one little sentence, 'Everyone needs a place' resulted in this," said Laura Varon Brown, executive director of Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit. "They cared enough about Gilda and that love he had for her, to make sure her legacy stands and it will always stand. And the difference she has made in the lives of people facing cancer and what Gene did for her legacy is amazing."
There are hundreds of Gilda Club affiliates across the globe, and they are all free support groups for cancer patients all thanks to Wilder's dedication to continue his wife's legacy.
Following Gilda's death, he found another loving relationship with Karen Boyar. Wilder passed away at their Connecticut home from complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 83 years old.