"By writing or reading obituaries, we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others."
Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"

"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'"
John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Annette Charles aka Annette Cardona

Actress -- via the Washington Post. UPDATE: I received this information via email from Coolwaters Productions, and thought it worth reprinting --
Annette Cardona (aka Annette Charles) actress, teacher and mentor to  many young students, passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, right before 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at USC University Hospital. She was 63 years old, and of Mexican, Italian, and Native Indian descent. The cause was non-smokers lung cancer. She was best known for her role as Cha Cha di Gregorio in Grease the Film, a part that was specifically created for her. She had an amazing life and career both on and off the screen.

Barry Pearl, her co-star in Grease reflected when he heard about her passing, “We were blessed to have had Annette touch our lives. She was a spirit unlike no other; and her spirituality carried her into her work after Grease where she touched and helped many troubled souls. Ours is a great loss, as she will be sorely missed."

Annette Cardona's professional life was dedicated to a career in the entertainment industry; a career that spanned all major aspects of the performing arts, and in every possible medium (film, the recital hall, stage, and TV). A multi-talented actor, dancer, and singer, Annette's versatility and charismatic presence captivated and touched audiences throughout the world.

A respected artist, Ms. Cardona performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Reagan. She had worked with renowned directors/choreographers Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett in Sweet Charity, Coco with Katherine Hepburn, Promises Promises, and was good friend Chita Rivera's standby in Meredith Wilson's 1491. Filmed on location in Nicaragua, Ms. Cardona starred in the controversial Haskell Wexler/George Lucas motion pictureLatino. Notable stage appearances included her portrayal of La Nina, opposite Anthony Quinn, and more recently as Perla, with Elizabeth Ashley, in Tennessee Williams' Red Devil Battery Sign. She lit up the stage as the Acid Queen in the Los Angeles version of the Rock Opera Tommy, Anita in West Side Story, and had multiple roles in a production of Candide for the distinguished Leonard Bernstein.

Aldonza/Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha was perhaps her favorite role, because through it she could access the full spectrum of her artistic gifts; in this character, she graced the stage on many occasions, and alongside co-stars Allan Jones, Herschel Bernardi, and Hal Linden as Don Quixote. The underlying message of Man of La Mancha resonated throughout her core, as she embodied a quote from the musical, and lived her "...life as it ought to be!" all the way to the end.

Highlights from her television career featured starring roles on Magnum P.I., Incredible Hulk, and the Emmy Award winning PBS special Musical Comedy Tonight opposite Juliet Prowse. Ms. Cardona appeared as a guest soloist at the Alhambra Palace Theatre in Granada, Spain, has toured nationally with the Lola Montes Spanish Ballet, and has also performed in concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre and Century Plaza with Bob Hope, Ricardo Montalban, Vikki Carr, Steve Allen, George Burns, Lynn Redgrave, Edward James Olmos, and Paul Rodriguez. As a trailblazer, she was one of the first Latin performers to be accepted in non-Hispanic roles, which is major part of why she was chosen to be the first to receive the Nosotros Golden Eagle Award for Best Actress.

Ms. Cardona held advanced degrees in Theatre and Psychology, and taught the techniques of acting, dance/movement, speech and interpersonal communication, as a college professor and private coach. An altruistic learner, she completed her graduate studies, an MSW in Clinical Social Work, at New York University, and was on faculty at California State University, Northridge.

Ms. Cardona utilized the performing arts as an adjunct to the therapeutic process, by incorporating the theatre to reach and motivate diverse, at-risk youth. Inspired by the powerful results of this psycho-educational intervention, Ms. Cardona co-wrote, produced and directed the musical drama Second Chance with Amy Weinstein.

City council member and friend, Tom LaBonge added, "Annette was a tremendous individual, an amazing dancer, a dedicated educator, and a dear friend to me and my wife Brigid.  As a proud graduate of John Marshall High School, Annette's passion for the arts, and her fearlessness helped her land the iconic role of Charlene "Cha Cha" DiGregorio in the movie Grease.  Later as a professor, she motivated and encouraged countless students to pursue their dreams.  Annette Cardona was an absolutely wonderful human being, and served as an inspiration to us all.  It is a tragedy and a terrible loss that cancer has claimed this beautiful angel from the City of Angels."

The family issued the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened, beyond words, at the loss of our beloved Annette. Please know that she passed peacefully to be with the Lord on her own terms, and confident in her faith. We extend our thanks to the staff at USC University Hospital for their loving care, especially to Dr. Mack, Dr. Pagnini, nutritionist Carmen Martinez, Dr. Gitlitz and her PA Michael Luther, Dr. Ali, Dr. Quinn, Dr. Te, and Dr. Mestman. Annette was diagnosed in mid-June with stage four non-smokers lung cancer—a horrific, aggressive disease that created multiple complications. We too are in shock, because we believed that she would be with us well beyond six weeks. We are very proud of Annette’s talent, which far outshined her fame. She was an authentic triple threat as a performer, who had an astounding work ethic that was applied to everything she did. She was also an amazing, and stern teacher, who relentlessly encouraged her students to grow beyond themselves. She loved very hard, and made everyone who got to know her feel like they owned a piece of her heart, which is the reason why she was able to cultivate countless close relationships. We are very touched by the outpouring of love and condolences from everyone—we wholeheartedly thank you. Annette was a bright light to her family, friends, and colleagues; she will be missed beyond any emotional expression, and leaves an irreplaceable void in our hearts.”

Annette is survived by her mother Mary Cardona, her husband Rob Romeo, her sister and brother-in-law Benita and Corrie Oekawa, her nephew Luke Oekawa, and numerous relatives and close friends. Her father Emanuel Cardona passed away in 1993. Visitation is on Monday, August 8, 2011 at St. Andrews Church in Pasadena from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., and followed by a Memorial Mass. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in her memory by using the following link: https://secure2.convio.net/uscsom/site/Donation2?df_id=1561&1561.donation=form1

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David Legrant

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