We are incredibly saddened to report that Karen Pendleton, an original Mouseketeer from The Mickey Mouse Club, has passed away at the age of 73. We wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to one of the younger Mouseketeers during the 1955-1959 run and look back on the legacy she has left behind.

Karen Pendleton was born on Aug. 1, 1946, in Glendale, California. When producers were looking to cast for The Mickey Mouse Club, she was recruited from a local dance school in Los Angeles. Though she was one of the younger cast members, she was known for her talents in both singing and dancing.

When the show wrapped in 1959, she left show business and went on to finish school and give birth to her daughter. In 1983, she was involved in a horrific automobile accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down and required her to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. While many dancers would consider this the end of the road, Pendleton became an advocate, both for people with disabilities and battered women. She also went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Psychology.

You may have even seen Karen Pendleton take part in many Mickey Mouse Club reunions, including an appearance on the Disney Treasures DVD and as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Mickey Mouse Club in 2005.

“My mom loved her Mouseketeer family,” her daughter, Staci, said in a statement. “Getting together with [her co-stars] was always a high point. It gave her the opportunity to relive great memories and to meet so many Mickey Mouse Club fans that watched the show as kids and loved her. Many told her that they named their daughters Karen in her honor.”

We send our condolences to Karen Pendleton’s family in this difficult time.