Annette Funicello will not be remembered as a great actress, though she starred on TV and in movies, or a great singer, though she had hit records. Even the physical development that made her stand out from Walt Disney’s other Mouseketeers was not the most important aspect of Funicello, who died Monday at the age of 70.
Rather, she was noteworthy for an openness and likability matched by her obvious dignity, self-respect and respect for others. (She always referred to Walt Disney, who nurtured her career, as “Mr. Disney.”) She was always a nice girl, then woman. She could sell Skippy peanut butter by the freight-car-load because people trusted her. She could stroll through the skin-and-silliness of the ’60s beach movies because she maintained her own modesty throughout.