'Wizard of Oz's' flowerpot munchkin dies at 89

Margaret Pellegrini,
Original munchkin Margaret Pellegrini donned her flower pot hat for almost 75 years. Dan Tuffs / Today

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By Ashley Majeski

Margaret Pellegrini, one of the latest surviving munchkins from the "Wizard of Oz," died Wednesday from complications from a stroke at the age of 89, her close friend Bunny McCloud confirmed to TODAY.com.

Known as the "Flowerpot Munchkin," Pellegrini spent her later years living in Glendale, Ariz., and attending "Wizard of Oz"-themed events and festivals. She was a regular at the Oztoberfest held each year at the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kan.

"She has been to Oztoberfest for nine of the 10 years we've held it," McCloud, who works at the museum, said. "We would usually do the 'Wizard of Oz' play during the festival, and during the munchkin parts, she'd get up on stage and sing and dance. It's so hard to lose someone you love, and everyone loved Margaret dearly."

Pellegrini, who would have turned 90 in September, was only 16 years old when she acted alongside Judy Garland in the 1939 film. In March 2013, during promotions for "Oz," she told a Glendale news station that she was paid $50 a week for her work in the movie. While that was a substantial salary at the time, it was still less than the film's canine star, Toto.

"He got paid more than I did!" she said. "He got $125 a week and I only got $50!"

Pellegrini was one of only three living munchkins. Only 95-year-old Ruth Robinson Duccini, who played a villager, and 93-year-old Jerry Maren, who played a member of the Lollipop Guild, remain. According to McCloud, both currently live in assisted living homes and no longer travel to events.

Pellegrini had previously suffered another stroke, but according to McCloud, was sharp and full of spunk.

"Her mind was definitely intact," McCloud said. "She would take call after call of people wanting her to go places and she managed to keep it all straight. 

"She had a huge heart. I'm sure it had a hard time fitting into that little body of hers."

Actors James Gandolfini, Annette Funicello and Cory Monteith are just three of the famous names we've lost in 2013.