Denise Nickerson, the actress best known for playing the spoiled, gum-obsessed girl Violet Beauregarde in the beloved film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, died Wednesday night. She was 62.
In a Facebook post earlier this week, her family said Nickerson, who had a stroke last year, experienced a major medical emergency Monday and was admitted to the hospital. Her son, Josh Nickerson, and his wife, Jasmine, wrote that Nickerson suffered seizures and developed pneumonia, and they made the decision to take her off life support after she entered a “coma-like state.”
Born in New York City in 1957, Nickerson was 13 when she appeared in Willy Wonka, which starred Gene Wilder as the eccentric chocolatier. “I’m a very fortunate lady to have been chosen to be a part of something that brings smiles to so many faces,” she told PEOPLE in 2016.
As for Wilder, Nickerson recalled that “he was such a kind, tender-hearted man. And for him to put up with us, my God what patience he must’ve needed for five of us running around [on set].”
Nickerson made her screen debut in an episode of the TV series Flipper, and appeared on shows including Dark Shadows, The Electric Company, and The Brady Bunch. She left Hollywood in 1978 and later became a nurse.
Following her stroke in 2018, Nickerson entered a rehab facility but was able to return home later that year. She was even visited by her Willy Wonka costars Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) and Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) last September.
Nickerson’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money, in part to honor her wish “to be cremated and her ashes made into a piece of glass art,” as well as for their home expenses. She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law.