'Willy Wonka' Star Denise Nickerson Dies at 62

Denise Nickerson, the actress best known for playing Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, died on Wednesday her family announced. She was 62.

denise-nickerson_getty-Steve Granitz : Contributor
(Photo: Steve Granitz / Contributor, Getty)

"She's gone," Nickerson's son, Josh, and his wife, Jasmine, wrote in a Facebook post. The couple, who described themselves as the former child star's "only immediate family and caretakers," had been providing updates about Nickerson's health on Facebook ever since she suffered a severe stroke in June 2018.

The couple created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Nickerson's funeral expenses.

"It’s been a long, hard year, and we have been with her and caring for her everyday since then. Jasmine quit her job to stay at home with [Denise] full-time so she didn’t have to live in a nursing home. We gave up over half of our income at that time and have done everything we can to survive. Joshua works a second job to float us for groceries and necessities. We found out in January we are pregnant with [our] first child, due August 26th," the statement from her family read.

They wrote that Nickerson's conditioned worsened on Monday when "she aspirated, and caught pneumonia" after being rushed to the hospital, according to the GoFundMe page. The next day, she's offered a massive seizure and was subsequently put "in a coma-like state."

"They just took off all the equipment. None of it was helping, but making her only more uncomfortable," Josh and Jasmine wrote on Facebook early Wednesday morning. "We're telling her it's okay to let go."

Josh and Jasmine later clarified that despite prior reports, Nickerson was not taken off life support, and that "she was never ON life support. She simply had basic machines running like the IV drip with antibiotics and anti seizure meds, and a very strong oxygen pump (not a ventilator which is a life support device)." They explained that the machines were "unnecessary to stop or fix the problems she's having" and that they stopped using them "because it wasn't helping her."


Nickerson's career took off in 1968 when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera Dark Shadows as Amy Jennings and Nora Collins. At 13, she landed her signature role as the sassy, gum-chewing Violet in the 1971 adaptation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

She later had roles on TV shows, including PBS' The Electric Company and CBS' Search for Tomorrow, in addition to a one-episode stint as Peter Brady (Christopher Knight)'s girlfriend on ABC's The Brady Bunch. Her final onscreen appearance was the 1978 film Zero to Sixty.


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