FRESNO, Calif. - Karen Pendleton, one of the original Mouseketeers on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” died from a heart attack on Sunday in Fresno, Calif. She was 73.
Disney historian and author Lorraine Santoli made the announcement, The Hollywood Reporter shared on Tuesday.
“My mom loved her Mouseketeer family,” her daughter Staci revealed in a statement. “Getting together with [her co-stars] was always a high point. It gave her the opportunity to relive great memories and to me so many ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ fans that watched the show as kids and loved her. Many told her that they named their daughters Karen in her honor.”
The former child star was one of only nine kids who appeared on the beloved series during its entire run from 1955 until 1959. She was paired with fellow Mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien in the show’s closing number, “Alma Mater.”
According to the outlet, Pendleton was recruited to audition for “The Mickey Mouse Club” when producers visited dancing schools in Los Angeles in hopes of finding children to try out for a spot on the show.
After “The Mickey Mouse Club,” Pendleton left show business altogether. She went on to finish high school and got married. Pendleton welcomed a daughter in 1973 and divorced in 1981.
In 1983, Pendleton was in an automobile accident that paralyzed her from the waist down. While she needed a wheelchair for the rest of her life, her mobility didn’t stop Pendleton from returning to school to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s.
In addition to this, Pendleton went on to work at a shelter for abused women and became an advocate for those with disabilities as a board member for the California Association of the Physically Handicapped, the outlet shared.
Pendleton left Hollywood, but she never forgot her time in “The Mickey Mouse Club.” In fact, she co-starred in many reunion shows and parades at Disneyland. She also attended fan shows and conventions.
Pendleton is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren.