Legacy of Karen Pendleton's time as Mouseketeer, service to Valley remembered

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Karen Pendleton, one of the original Mouseketeers of Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club" passed away at the age of 73 after a heart attack in her Fresno home Sunday.

After speaking with family and friends, it's clear her legacy lives on not only through her work as a Mouseketeer but through her service to the Central Valley.

Whether you watched it's debut in 1955 or sang along to re-runs of our favorite jamboree, "The Mickey Mouse Club" touched generations.

Karen Pendleton, the youngest of the original Mouseketeers, quickly became a household name.

"They were in awe of meeting Karen, it was as if it was the Paul McCartney of their time," said Disney historian, and author of the official Mickey Mouse Club book, Lorraine Santoli.

Santoli says she first met Karen in 1980.

"She loved talking about the old times and "The Mickey Mouse Club," I mean she was just a little kid she was like six or seven years old," she said.

After the show wrapped, Karen moved to the Central Valley where her title of Mouseketeer switched to devoted mother and grandmother.

But she made sure to keep in touch with her fellow Mouseketeers and even organized this 2001 reunion in Fresno.

In 1983, Pendelton was paralyzed in an accident and had to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

But Lorraine says the accident couldn't shake her positive outlook on life.

"She came back, she went to school she got her degree she got her masters degree," Santoli said.

Her only daughter Staci says that was when Karen began working for the Marjaree Mason Center and even served on the board of the California Association for the Physically Handicapped.

Staci adds her mother was a Bullard and Hoover high school counselor through comprehensive youth services.

"I guess now its time for us to say goodbye to Karen but we'll remember her so fondly and shell always be in our hearts," Santoli said.

The family says in lieu of flowers, you can donate to the Disabled Veterans Association or Humane Society in Karen's honor, both important causes to her.
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