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At the tender age of 4, Karolyn Grimes began memorizing lines and acting in the fantasy world of cinema. She worked with film legends John Wayne, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Loretta Young, Fred MacMurray, Betty Grable, Danny Kaye and, of course, Jimmy Stewart. She already had appeared in four films when the part of Zuzu came along. It was just another small part, but one that has made an indelible imprint on the American consciousness.
Karolyn’s life has not always been wonderful. In fact, tragedy beset her early and often. Her Hollywood career ended in her teens when her mother died from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and her father was killed in an automobile accident. An only child, Karolyn was sent by the court to live in tiny Osceola, Mo. Living in a less than desirable home, she found support from the townspeople, and, through their love and encouragement, Karolyn decided to get an education and became a medical technician.
She eventually married and had two little girls. The marriage ended in divorce, and two years later her girls’ father was killed in a hunting accident. Karolyn then married a man who had three children. They had two more together, so Karolyn raised a family of seven children. Her youngest child committed suicide at age 18, and Karolyn describes this time in her life as the most devastating. As she climbed out of that despair, her husband of 25 years died from lung cancer.
At the time, the rebirth of interest in “It’s a Wonderful Life” had begun, and Karolyn soon found a new life’s focus. She moved to the Seattle area from Missouri and serves as the unofficial ambassador for the film, traveling the world and speaking at screenings, benefits, conventions and other venues. Her sparkling personality and her courageous story allows her audiences to feel good about themselves and their lives, no matter the hardship.