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Hazel Comic Strip Creator Ted Key Dies

The ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that cartoonist Ted Key, creator of the comic strip HAZEL, has died at the age of 95.

Key's son, Peter Key confirmed to the AP that Key died at his home on Saturday in the Philadelphia suburb of Tredyffrin Township after a 1 1/2-year battle with cancer.

HAZEL, about a bossy maid, debuted in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST in 1943 and evolved into a primetime TV series starring Shirley Booth in the 1960s on NBC and CBS.

Key also created the characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman for producer Jay Ward. The time-traveling dog-scientist and his boy debuted on TV in 1959 as part of the animated show ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS.

Key created cartoon panels called DIZ AND LIZ and JACK AND JILL for children's magazines and produced several other animated animal characters. He wrote for radio, wrote and illustrated books and had freelance cartoons in publications like COSMOPOLITAN, BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Peter Key said four movies were made featuring characters created by his father, including Disney's THE MILLION DOLLAR DUCK about a duck that laid golden eggs, GUS, featuring a field goal-kicking mule and THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE.

"Like a lot of creative people, he kept a notepad near his bedside," Peter Key said of his father. "He had a dream about a maid who took a message, but she screwed it up completely. When he looked at the idea the next day, he thought it was good and sold it to THE POST."

Key acquired the rights to HAZEL in 1969, the same year the magazine went out of business, and got the comic picked up by King Features for syndication. The comic is still distributed by King today, using cartoons drawn by Key before his retirement in 1993.

HAZEL was so popular that when the first collection of cartoons was published in 1946, E.P. Dutton sold 500,000 copies, and went on to publish seven more HAZEL collections.

Key and a neighbor published motivational posters called "Positive Attitude Posters," and he created a series of motivational pamphlets for sales people.

Theodore Keyser was born in Fresno, California, USA on August 25, 1912. His father, a Latvian immigrant who had changed his last name from Katseff to Keyser, changed his name to Key during World War I.

Key is survived by his second wife, Bonnie, three sons and three grandchildren. His first wife, Anne, died in 1984. Services will be private.