Man who gave name to “Peanuts'” Linus dies at age 90

FILE - In a Sept. 23, 2003 file photo, the real Linus, artist Linus Maurer, cuts a ribbon after unveiling a statue of Linus of "Peanuts" comic strip fame during a ceremony at his hometown of Sleepy Eye, Minn. Maurer, a cartoonist and illustrator whose old friend Charles Schulz borrowed his first name for Charlie Brown’s sidekick in his “Peanuts” comic strip, has died. Maurer’s longtime partner Mary Jo Starsiak said Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, that Maurer died Jan. 29 in Sonoma, California. He was 90. (John Cross/The Free Press via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Linus Maurer, a cartoonist and illustrator whose old friend and colleague Charles M. Schulz borrowed his first name for Charlie Brown’s blanket-wielding best friend Linus in his “Peanuts” comic strip and cartoons, has died at age 90.

Maurer died Jan. 29 in Sonoma, California, his longtime partner Mary Jo Starsiak told The Associated Press on Friday night. His exact cause of death was not clear, but he had struggled with Parkinson’s disease and heart trouble late in life.

About 65 years ago, Maurer and Schulz worked together at Art Instruction Schools Inc. in Minneapolis, when “Peanuts” was getting started.

Schulz told the story in a book celebrating “Peanuts'” 50th anniversary.

“Linus came from a drawing that I made one day of a face almost like the one he now has,” Schulz wrote. “I experimented with some wild hair, and showed the sketch to a friend of mine who sat near me at art instruction, whose name was Linus Maurer. It seemed appropriate that I should name the character Linus.”

It was a common practice for Schulz, who named many “Peanuts” characters, including Charlie Brown, after the people that surrounded him.

Schulz, who died in 2000, and Maurer remained lifelong friends, both settling in the same part of Northern California north of San Francisco later in life.

There, Maurer drew editorial cartoons for the Sonoma Index-Tribune, which first reported his death (http://bit.ly/1K3TiTZ).

Maurer had a successful run with comics in his own right, with syndicated strips in the 1960s and 1970s called “Old Harrigan,” ”Abracadabra” and “In the Beginning.” He also created the “Challenger” puzzle that was syndicated in newspaper crossword sections.

Before that, he had worked as an illustrator for IBM and AT&T in New York and as an art director for the McCann Erickson ad agency and Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco.

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