By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 05, 2002 01:55 PM

During the past few months, as a rare Parkinson’s-like illness sapped Dudley Moore’s abilities to walk, speak and play his beloved piano, the impish comedian known to his fellow Brits as “Cuddly Dudley” clung to his sense of humor, PEOPLE reports in its latest cover story. Never did he need it more than during his last weeks: In late March Moore contracted pneumonia as a complication of the disease — a degenerative brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Too ill to attend the March 16 wedding of “Arthur” costar Liza Minnelli, he spent his final days watching movies and listening to Mozart, Chopin and his favorite jazz recordings at his three-bedroom home in Plainfield, N.J., next door to his close friend and caregiver, concert pianist Rena Fruchter. A CD of Moore’s own piano compositions, “Songs Without Words,” was playing when, on Wed., March 27, he finally succumbed to the illness in bed at home, surrounded by Fruchter and her family. “We were holding his hands, one of my daughters and I and my husband and the nurse,” says Fruchter, 54. “He was conscious until just before the end.” On April 2 about 70 friends — including his ex-wives, Tuesday Weld and Brogan Lane — gathered for a memorial service at a funeral home in Watchung, N.J. “It was very private, very moving, with some irreverence,” says Adams. “It wasn’t about glitz or glamor, but Dudley the person.”