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Gene Wilder's Widow Just Shared His Last Words Before Losing Alzheimer's Battle

The couple was married for 25 years prior to Wilder's death in 2016.

It's hard to imagine a world without Gene Wilder, whose name will forever be synonymous with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The '70s actor died from complications with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, just days before his 25th wedding anniversary to wife Karen Boyer. Now, in a new documentary aptly titled Remembering Gene Wilder, Boyer is reminiscing on her final moments with Wilder—including the last words he said to her.

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The pair first crossed paths on the set of See No Evil, Hear No Evil in 1989. Boyer was a speech consultant, who Wilder had tapped during the film's research process, according to People. However, their first date didn't come until a year later—following the death of Wilder's third wife, Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer.

Wilder and Boyer became inseparable. She wed the Blazing Saddles actor in 1991 and remained by Wilder's side until his death in 2016.

Remembering Gene Wilder chronicles the actor's final years and features never-before-seen interviews with some of the actor's closest relatives. In the documentary, Boyer recalls the final words exchanged between her and her late husband, as well as the song that forever binds her to that special moment.

"The music was playing in the background—Ella Fitzgerald was singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,'" says Boyer in the film, per People.

"I was lying next to him and he sat up in bed and he said, 'I trust you,'" she recalls, before adding, "And then he said, 'I love you.'"

"That's the last thing he said," says Boyer.

Gene Wilder and his wife Karen Boyer at a tennis match
Al Bello / Getty Images

Elsewhere in the documentary, Boyer reveals that Wilder never fully acknowledged he was battling Alzheimer's. However, his decline in memory became apparent to Boyer when Wilder couldn't recall the name of his "favorite" movie, Young Frankenstein, in which he portrays the lead character.

"He never really accepted that he had Alzheimers, and maybe by the time we found out that's what it was, his hippocampus didn't let him remember," Boyer says in one of her interviews.

Boyer also recalls having to put on a brave face as the disease progressed: "When I'd see him slip away further from me I was sick to my stomach but I had to keep smiling and tell him that everything was okay."

Wilder died at age 83 at their family home in Connecticut, People reported at the time. "Gene was wonderful; he was the best husband I think anybody could ask for. To love and be loved is the best gift anybody could ask for, and we had that," Boyer says of their union in Remembering Gene Wilder.

The emotional documentary is currently playing in theaters in New York and will head to Los Angeles on Friday, March 22, before hitting screens nationally.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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