Walt Morey, author of “Gentle Ben” and other children’s books, has died. He was 84.
Morey died Sunday at his home in Wilsonville, south of Portland, after suffering a heart attack.
A native of Hoquiam, Wash., Morey moved around the Pacific Northwest after completing high school and held a variety of jobs--including professional boxer--before he started his writing career in the late 1920s. He sold short stories to pulp magazines and wrote two books for adults.
He then took a hiatus from writing. After years of urging from his first wife to write a children’s book, Morey resumed his career with “Gentle Ben,” which appeared in 1965 and sold nearly 3 million copies. The story of a 13-foot, 2,200-pound Kodiak bear was turned into a movie and television series.
Morey wrote 15 children’s books, most of them based on people and animals he knew. His last book, “Death Walk,” appeared last June. It is about an 18-year-old boy who encounters a band of escaped criminals in Alaska.
Morey spent the last 15 years visiting elementary schools, urging children to read. Morey said he knew about non-readers. He repeated first grade three times and said he hated school and reading in particular until he became a teen-ager.
His first wife, Rosalind, died in 1977 and he remarried a year later. Survivors include his wife, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.