"She's gone." That was the short Facebook post by Denise Nickerson's family early Thursday, announcing the death of the actress most people remember as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The BBC and the Wrap report Nickerson was 62. "So very sorry to say that my dear friend and Wonka sister, Denise Nickerson, has gone," Julie Cole, who played Veruca Salt in the movie, posted Thursday on Twitter. Besides her role as the character who eventually morphed into a giant blueberry, Nickerson appeared in the late '60s-early '70s vampire TV series Dark Shadows, as well as on shows like The Brady Bunch, the children's show The Electric Company, and the CBS soap opera Search for Tomorrow. She ditched acting in 1978, at age 21.
Joshua Nickerson, her son, and his wife, Jasmine, explain in a GoFundMe that has raised nearly $13,000 as of Thursday morning that Nickerson had a severe stroke last year, and that recently she'd had pneumonia and suffered from seizures. In a Facebook post late Wednesday night, Nickerson's family also cleared up some rumors that were floating around: notably, that Nickerson had never been on life support, as reported in some outlets; that she hadn't had sepsis, but blood poisoning from carbon dioxide buildup from improper exhalation; and that, after she left acting, she'd worked as a receptionist and an accountant, not as a nurse. "We will miss our Mom/Neecers," the couple, who are expecting their first child in August, write. "We're sorry you couldn't meet your granddaughter. We love you." (Read more obituary stories.)