Des O’Connor was secretly battling Parkinson’s disease when he died.
The TV legend died aged 88 on November 14, a week after suffering a fall in his Buckinghamshire home.
O’Connor’s widow Jodie Brooke Wilson has now revealed that her husband had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago, and is sure that his fall – one of many – was a symptom of the disease.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Wilson, 51, said: ‘Des dealt with it very privately. He didn’t want people to feel sorry for him and for it to be what they first thought about when they saw him. He was diagnosed in 2017 but he thinks he had had it for a while.’
Wilson, who met O’Connor 31 years ago and married him in 2007, said that he first saw something was wrong in 2012 when he starred as the wizard in a London Palladium production of The Wizard Of Oz.
She said: ‘In one of the scenes he had to be put in a hot-air balloon and go up into the gods. He had to stay there for a little bit.
‘He remembers sitting in the hot-air balloon and looking down at his hands and seeing a tremor. He remembers thinking it strange, but never thinking it was Parkinson’s-related.’
O’Connor only told immediate family – including his wife, their 16-year-old son Adam and his four grown-up daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina from previous relationships – about his illness.
Wilson added: ‘Des wanted people to be uplifted chatting to him, rather than thinking about his illness. It was a very gradual thing.
‘When he was told, he was very upbeat about it. He dealt with it, saying, “Yes I’ve got it, but I’ll keep taking the tablets and keep smiling.” That’s what he did: took the tablets and kept smiling.’
Wilson died in his sleep from sepsis in hospital, hours after spending time with his youngest daughter Kristina.
Doctors had called Wilson to get to the hospital as O’Connor’s condition was getting worse, with Wilson at home in Buckinghamshire awaiting the results of a Covid test for her son Adam after an outbreak of the virus at his performing arts school.
Sadly, when she arrived at the hospital, O’Connor had already died.
Due to Covid-19 rules, only 30 people were permitted to attend O’Connor’s funeral, but Wilson said it was an ‘intimate service filled with love and respect’.
Boasting a 45-year career in showbiz, O’Connor was one of Britain’s most loved entertainers, hosting shows like The Des O’Connor Show, Des O’Connor Tonight, Take Your Pick and Countdown.
Aside from television, O’Connor had a successful music career, recording 36 albums, five of which reached the UK top 40.
He also achieved four top 10 singles, including the song I Pretend, which reached number one in 1968, and worked with stars including Frank Sinatra, Adam Faith, Liberace, the Beatles, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Buddy Holly and Cilla Black.
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