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NEW YORK - Annette Funicello, who went from Mouseketeer to beach party movie icon, died at age 70.

Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement she had multiple sclerosis. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old.

The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney's television kiddie club, an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.

Funicello will be remembered by thousands at Walk MS events around the country and the state this weekend.

I think her spirit will definitely be walking with everybody, said Jennifer Harper.

Harper, who has MS, is one of the top fundraisers at the annual fundraiser in Olympia.

Harper said having the connection to the former Disney star made it easier for her to tell her relatives about her diagnosis.

I said to my Mom, 'Annette's your hero for being part of Disney, so now maybe I have a bit of that heroism too,' said Harper.

For more information about Walk MS events this weekend visitNational MS Society

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