People are mostly familiar with Gene Wilder's acting career, like his portrayal of Willy Wonka in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it turns out that he was living out one of the sweetest love stories we have ever heard.
Wilder, who died due to complications with Alzheimer's disease on Sunday at the age of 83, was a famous Hollywood actor, director, and author, known for such films as Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Blazing Saddles. In the 1980's he married his wife, famed comedian and SNL cast member Gilda Radner, and remained happily married until their romance ended suddenly in 1989 when Radner died of ovarian cancer just four years after their wedding. Wilder's nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, told People that Wilder was unsure if he would ever be able to date again after losing his wife.
"I think a part of him, after Gilda, wondered, 'Will I ever find someone who excites me again,' " Walker-Pearlman told People. "He never went on a single date after Gilda died."
That is, until Karen Boyer walked into his life.
Wilder and Boyer, a speech consultant, met around 1989 while Wilder was doing research for the movie See No Evil, Hear No Evil, but didn't go on their first date until a year after they first met. Walker-Pearlman tells People that Boyer was the only woman on Wilder's mind when he decided that he was ready to date again.
"After Gilda [pictured with Wilder above] passed away, it was so devastating to him, and that Karen would walk into his life was such a wonderful miracle," Walker-Pearlman said. "He never had a date with anyone else until Karen and he ended up marrying her. He was worried he wouldn't know how to date anymore, but once he realized he could date, he didn't want to date anyone but Karen."
The couple dated for two years before getting married in a private ceremony at Wilder's home in Connecticut with only the closest of family and friends in attendance. Wilder and Boyer remained happily married for 25 years, and Walker-Pearlman's description of their romance is enough to make your heart swell.
"Most people would consider their daily life a romantic vacation. He built a very idyllic life. There was nothing that brought him the tranquility that his marriage to Karen did," Walker-Pearlman said. Wilder's nephew told People Wilder and Boyer enjoyed spending quality time together playing tennis, writing and painting.
Wilder died in the couple's home in Stamford, Connecticut just days before his and Boyer's 25th wedding anniversary, and Walker-Pearlman says that his aunt and uncle lived out their wedding vows until their last days together.
"They wrote in their wedding vows how they were going to dedicate their lives to each other," Walker-Pearlman said. "And that's what they did."