Model for 'Family Circus' character

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thelma Keane, 82, the inspiration for the Mommy character in the long-running comic strip "Family Circus" created by her husband, Bil Keane, died Friday of Alzheimer's disease in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

A native of Australia, she met her future husband during World War II while working as an accounting secretary.

Keane was working next to her as a promotional artist for the U.S. Army.

The two married in 1948 and moved to Keane's hometown of Philadelphia. They had five children and moved to the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley in 1958.

"Family Circus," which Keane began drawing in 1960, is a good-humored depiction of the life of two parents and their four children. It is now featured in about 1,500 newspapers.

Not only was she the inspiration for the always-loving and ever-patient comic character also named Thel, but she worked full-time as her husband's business and financial manager.

"There was nothing that I did in the cartoon world or in the business world that she wasn't the instigator of," Keane told the Associated Press on Sunday.

Thelma Keane was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about five years ago and had been in an assisted-living center for the last three years.

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