updated 07/10/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 04/08/2013 AT 1:10 PM ET
Annette Funicello, the ultimate Girl Next Door to a generation of Baby Boomers who first fell in love with her on the original 1955-59 incarnation of The Mickey Mouse Club, died Monday after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. She was 70.
Her family told Extra that Funicello passed away from complications of her illness, and they were by her side when she was taken off life support. Funicello had been in an MS coma for years.
“She’s on her toes dancing in heaven. No more MS,” Gina Gilardi, Funicello’s daughter, tells Extra. “My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us.”
With her brunette curls and expressive brown eyes, “Annette,” as she was simply known, grew up on the nation’s TV screens in her unquestioned role as the princess of Walt Disney’s daily afternoon syndicated TV show. She embodied the image of wholesome Eisenhower Era youth both on screen and off, even when she graduated to the role of Frankie Avalon’s beach-blanket buddy in the early ’60s.