Gene Wilder passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s at the age of 83, leaving behind a devoted wife and extended family who loved him very much. His nephew wrote a heartfelt message about his uncle after Gene passed away. The legacy that Gene learned from his family will now be carried on through those he left behind.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Gene’s Parents, William J. and Jeanne Silberman, Inspired Him
Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Wisconsin in 1933. His dad, William J. Silberman, and his maternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. His interest in acting grew when his mom, Jeanne Silberman, was suffering from rheumatic fever and Gene was asked by the doctor to try to make her laugh.
2. Gene’s Sister, Corinne Silberman Pearlman, Sparked His Interest in Acting
Gene was inspired to pursue acting by his sister, he said in an interview with Turner Classic Movies. She was studying acting and he wanted to follow suit. His teacher said that he could become a student if he was still interested when he turned 13. Gene studied with him for two years.
Corinne was married to Gilbert Pearlman, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 82. Gilbert ran an advertising agency. They have two sons: Steven Pearlman and Jordan Walker-Pearlman. According to a Gene Wilder Facebook fan page, Corrine passed away in February at 86.
3. Gene’s Adopted Daughter, Katharine Wilder, Stays Out of the Spotlight
Gene’s adopted daughter, Katharine Wilder, has stayed far away from the spotlight. Gene adopted Katharine the same year that he married her mother, Mary Joan Schutz. When he and Mary Joan divorced seven years later, Katharine believed that Gene had cheated on her mom. Gene has written about his daughter, saying that losing her was a great heartache. In the past, Katharine has not responded to attempts by the media to interview her.
4. Gene’s Nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Is a Film Director
Gene’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, released a touching statement about his uncle after Gene’s death, Variety reported.
We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.
You can read Jordan’s full statement below:
Jordan is a film director. He made his directing debut in 2000 with The Visit, a film about a man about to die in prison. A week ago, he announced that he’s making a new film, Ghetto Plainsman. This is his first movie since 2005. Jordan is married to screenwriter Elizabeth Hunter.
Gene also has a second nephew, Steven Pearlman.
5. Gene Wilder’s Nephew Was the Best Man at His Wedding
Gene Wilder and Karen Boyer were married in 1991 until Gene passed away. Jordan was the best man at his uncle Gene’s wedding. In turn, when Jordan got married in 2015, Gene was the Best Man Emeritus, Ring Bearer, and “Parent of the Groom.” Gene and Jordan were so close that Jordan signed his statement about Gene’s death, “Gene’s Kid.”