Des O'Connor Parkinson's

Des O’Connor was battling Parkinson’s disease when he died, reveals his widow

TV legend kept the illness a secret from his fans

Des O’Connor had Parkinson’s disease when he died last year – but was keeping it a secret from the public.

The TV legend, who was 88, passed away in hospital a week after falling at his home in Buckinghamshire in November.

But what Des’ fans didn’t realise was that he had been battling the devastating illness for several years.

In a new interview, the star’s widow, Jodie Brooke Wilson, revealed that her husband was diagnosed in 2017 but remained “upbeat” about it.

Des O'Connor and Jodie Brooke Wilson
Jodie and Des tied the knot in 2007 (Credit:

Des O’Connor secretly battled Parkinson’s

Des married Jodie – his fourth wife – in 2007, reportedly after meeting in a Thames Television car park.

The couple have a 16-year-old son together (Des also has four grown-up daughters from his previous marriages).

And Jodie, 51, paid tribute to her husband for managing to ‘keep smiling’ despite battling Parkinson’s.

She told the Daily Mail: “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.

Read more: Des O’Connor’s daughter Kristina pays heartfelt tribute to ‘dad she had to share with the world’

“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.”

Des died peacefully in his sleep on November 14 after falling at his home and developing sepsis.

Des O'Connor
Des was a star of the stage and screen for decades (Credit: ITV)

Incredible life

It brought to an end an incredible life, which saw him light up the stage and screen for decades. He also recorded a staggering 36 albums.

Des was even considered for a judging role on Britain’s Got Talent, according to Jodie.

Read more: Des O’Connor was ‘like a dad’ to him, reveals Bradley Walsh as he shares an emotional tribute

She revealed that she and Des were taken out for lunch by Simon Cowell prior to the show making its TV debut.

But despite them getting positive vibes from the meeting, Des didn’t end up getting the gig.

Simon Cowell
According to Jodie, Simon Cowell considered Des O’Connor for Britain’s Got Talent (Credit:

“[Simon] explained about the show and it sounded amazing,” she said. “Des was excited, and so was I. Then we didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks. Three weeks later, we found out someone high up had told Simon that Des was too old. Simon was too embarrassed to tell us.”

Following his death, Des’ agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith described him as the “ultimate entertainer”.

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