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November 10, 2011

Family Circus' Bil Keane dies

family circus bil keane

Bil Keane, whose Family Circus cartoon about a family with four cute little kids is carried in nearly 1,500 newspapers, has died at age 89.

According to the Los Angeles Times' obit, Keane mined his own family for material. He admitted to modeling the bespectacled and often befuddled Daddy on himself. His wife, Thelma, was the inspiration for the always-loving and ever-patient mother, also named Thel.

"I don't just try to be funny," Keane told The Times in 1990. "Many of my cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart."

The Philadelphia-born Keane was a self-taught artist, and had his first cartoon published in the Philadelphia Daily News in 1936, earning a dollar, according to his website. During World War II,he was stationed in Australia -- where he met his future wife -- and his drawings touted war bonds and safety among the soldiers.

King Features, which distributes the cartoon, said William Aloysius Keane started out imitating the styles of some of The New Yorker magazine cartoonists of the late 1930s, such as George Price, Richard Decker and Peter Arno. At the time, he and some friends were putting out a satire magazine, The Saturday Evening Toast, when he decided to drop the second L in "Bill." "I really did it just to be different," he said. "I thought it was a little more distinguished and started signing my cartoons that way, and it stuck."

King said the first Family Circus cartoon, which ran on February 29, 1960, showed Mommy surrounded by a roomful of toy clutter, answering the door to a survey person who asked, "Any children?" Keane's son, Jeff, will keep Family Circus going, the syndicate said.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:12 PM | | Comments (3)


I was sad to hear that Mr. Keane had passed.
It is and was always a joy to ever day see his humor and wonderful cartoons. For me and my family he will be missed.

Our family always enjoyed Mr. Keane's work it was pure Americana. Bill always kept it clean and a good many cartoons brought a tear or two to the eye, especially the heavenly visits from the late grandparents... Very poignant! It didn't mater if a person didn't have children of their own, because who didn't take the long way home when they were a child? Or drive their mom up a wall from all the messes we kids made and the dustups we had with our sibling or neighbor kids? Yep, Bill will truly be missed, yet another talented artist forever resting in peace!!

Bill Keane was among the publication greats as Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald. His cartoons touched the hearts of many a parent or grown child with his clever cartoons. Thank you 'Jeffy' for continuing an Americana tradition! My sincere condolences to the Keane family - thoughts & prayers are with you.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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