An Active MotherAfter appearing in the 1968 rock 'n' roll movie Head with the band The Monkees, Funicello retired from the big screen to raise her family. "She was always there for carpools, Hot Dog Day and the PTA," daughter Gina told InStyle in 1994. "She was a normal mom." Gina and her brothers appeared with Funicello in commercials for Skippy peanut butter in the 1970s.
But Funicello neither lived happily ever after nor faded into the background. Her marriage ended in divorce in 1982; three years later she married racehorse breeder Glen Holt. She also re-ignited her career, reuniting with Avalon for 1987's retro romp Back to the Beach, her first film in nearly two decades. The success of the movie led to a 35-city concert tour with her costar.
For several years after the diagnosis, only her immediate family knew of her illness, but when her equilibrium finally gave out in 1991, causing rumors of alcoholism, Funicello had no choice but to go public. Two years later Disney's Hyperion published her autobiography, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, in which she detailed her battle against MS and her relentless search for a cure. A TV movie based on the story aired in October 1995, on Funicello's 53rd birthday, with the former Mouseketeer appearing in a few scenes playing her contemporary self.
No longer able to read or write and speaking only with great difficulty, she spent her final years mostly confined to a wheelchair, specially designed by her husband with a seat from a harness-racing sulky. Her home for the past 40 years was a smoky-blue ranch house in Encino, Calif., with frilly, white wrought iron fencing that she called "my good-luck house."
In her autobiography, Funicello wrote, "It's funny, but sometimes when I feel discouraged or have a problem I can't work out, I find myself thinking, 'If only Mr. Disney were here, he would know what to do.' "
Survivors include her husband, daughter Gina, and sons Jack Jr., and Jason. Donations in her honor can be sent to the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders.