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Charles Schulz Dies on Eve Of ‘Peanuts’ Farewell Comic

By Renee Tawa
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- The death of Charles M. Schulz, whose anxious and joyful heart infused the world’s most influential comic strip, dovetailed with the publication of his last original “Peanuts” on Sunday -- the way he might have scripted it. A master storyteller to the end, Schulz’s goodbye message to more than 355 million daily readers worldwide became his own epitaph.

On Friday, Schulz, 77, had a last skate around the ice rink he owns. On Saturday, he died in his sleep about 9:45 p.m. at home in Santa Rosa, Calif., with his wife, Jeannie, by his side.

In December, after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Schulz announced that he would no longer draw “Peanuts,” the most widely read comic strip in history. At the request of his five grown children, his syndicate contract stipulates that no other cartoonist draw the strip.

Son Monte Schulz said doctors gave his father another six or seven months. But his dad was drained by the chemotherapy and the effects of strokes that left him partially blind in one eye and unable to read or draw.

“He felt old at 77,” said Monte, 48. “He had already lived to an older age than either of his parents, and he felt like it was his time to go.”

The last daily “Peanuts” ran Jan. 3; previous “Peanuts” strips will run indefinitely (starting with strips he drew in 1974, a time when Schulz was at his peak and newer characters -- such as Peppermint Patty and Woodstock -- joined the cast).

“I think in a lot of ways, this is probably what he wanted -- once the strip was over, he sort of figured, that was that,” said Amy Lago, executive editor at United Feature Syndicate.

Sunday was officially Charles “Sparky” Schulz Day in St. Paul, Minn., his hometown -- a tribute that had been planned before his death. In Santa Rosa, his Redwood Empire Ice Arena was closed for the day, its flag at half-staff. Fans left piles of flowers outside the Warm Puppy snack shop.

“All of my fears, my anxieties, my joys, and almost, even all of my experiences go into that strip,” Schulz told “60 Minutes” in October 1999.