As were so many others, Michael J. Fox was stunned and saddened by Robin Williams' death earlier this week—and, just like so many, he was "stunned" when Williams' widow confirmed today that her husband had been dealing with the early stages of Parkinson's disease when he took his own life.
"Stunned to learn Robin had PD," tweeted Fox, who famously went public with his own Parkinson's battle in 1998. "Pretty sure his support for our Fdn predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace."
Williams indeed had been a longtime supporter of his friend's Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, dedicated to finding a cure for the degenerative disease, which attacks the central nervous system.
The comedian had performed in the past at the foundation's star-studded A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Cure Parkinson's annual galas.
Fox was one of the thousands of people (among them dozens upon dozens of celebrities) who tweeted about Williams on Monday after hearing that he was dead. "Famously kind, ferociously funny, a genius and a gentle soul. What a loss. #RobinWilliams," the former Family Ties and Spin City star wrote. (Fox now has a recurring guest-starring role on The Good Wife, in which he plays a fierce attorney who frequently draws attention to his condition—tardive dyskinesia, not Parkinson's in the show—as a strategic tactic in court.)
Williams was also longtime friends with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who has Parkinson's, and had performed at the fighting great's Celebrity Fight Night XII benefit in 2006. Ali's Celebrity Fight Nights have raised more than $95 million over the past 20 years, with most going to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.
"My father loved this man!" Laila Ali wrote on WhoSay, adding a pic of her father and Williams embracing. "Rest in peace Robin Williams!"
Seemingly to get ahead of the inevitable rumor mill, Williams' third wife, Susan Schneider, released a detailed statement to the press this morning, in which she revealed the Oscar winner's Parkinson's diagnosis.
"Robin's sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly," she said. "It is our hope in the wake of Robin's tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid."
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).