Denise Nickerson, best known for her role as Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, died Wednesday night after suffering a severe stroke in 2018. She was 62.
Her family made the announcement on Facebook. “She’s gone,” the message read.
The actress suffered a severe stroke in June 2018 after which she entered the ICU for treatment. Despite entering a rehab facility later in the year, her son Josh Nickerson took to Facebook earlier Wednesday to announce her debilitating state which led to their decision to cease life support. “They just took off all the equipment. None of it was helping, but making her only more uncomfortable,” he wrote. “We’re telling her it’s okay to let go.”
Nickerson was a young teen when she played the gum-chewing and sassy Violet, who turns into a giant blueberry, in the first movie version of the iconic childrens’ book, opposite Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka.
Her father, Sam Beauregarde, was a “prominent” local politician, civic leader and a used car salesman who uses Violet’s television interview for free advertising of his car dealership. After eating a three-course meal contained in one piece of gum, Violet inflates from the blueberry juice to the size of a large beach ball and is rolled away by Wonka’s Oompa Loompas:
When she appeared on the Today Show in 2015, Nickerson had this to say about her role in the film, “Look, I mean, we are the fortunate ones. We’re here. We got to really see it and experience it. The first thing people do when they find out who we are is they smile.”
One BTS unsubstantiated story is that supposedly after Nickerson was dressed as the inflated Violet, she was left on her side and alone while the crew took lunch.
Nickerson also appeared onthe Sesame Street companion series The Electric Company as Alison. On Dark Shadows, she played Amy Jennings and Nora Collins from 1968-70. After appearing in soap opera Search for Tomorrow and on The Brady Bunch, along with several small roles in films including Smile, Nickerson before retired from acting at age 21. She continued to make her living as a nurse.