the Bloom Report

Toy and Game People Obituaries - RIP - Rest in Play

If you know of a colleague's passing, please send us information

so we can share with our industry.

Remembering Those that have Passed . . . 

 

2022

John R Hall, Jr.  (February 28, 1946 - May 3, 2022) - John Hall began his career in toys with Child Guidance, which was eventually bought by Gabriel and then by CBS Toys. Ultimately, Hasbro purchased this group and John and his wife, Nancy, moved to Rhode Island with their two children, Jonathan and Kirsten, where he had a long career working at Hasbro as Sr VP, Director of Product Development for Playskool. He was affectionately known and embraced the moniker “Dr. No” by toy inventors for his discerning taste. John, with his characteristic dry humor also didn’t mind being referred to as “Dr. Know”. (information from Bob Fuhrer) 

 

GEORGE PEREZ  (1954 - 2022) - Writer, artist, and humanitarian George Perez died of pancreatic cancer on May 6, at the age of 67. Born in the Bronx in 1954, Perez worked on numerous series for both DC and Marvel over the years, as well as for other publishers such as Malibu, CrossGen, and BOOM! Studios. Perez was known for his skill with complicated scenes, and he contributed to such groundbreaking projects as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Marvel-DC crossover JLA/Avengers. Perez was also one of the founding members of The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit that assists comics creators in need. He received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award in 2005, and in 2017 he was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame. READ MORE...

 

Mel Squires - (the following is from Jerry Cleary) - Melvin Squires long time industry executive passed away at age 85 on April 23 rd , 2022 after fighting a courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his beloved wife and best friend, Deena (nee Label). He is the loving father of Deborah Cleighton( the late Robert Cleighton) and David Squires (Diane) Proud grandfather of Skyler and Brayden Cleighton and Tyler Squires. He is also survived by his loving sister Helene Zeitz ( the late Marvin Zeitz) and former wife Bonnie Squiress. Mel was the leading buyer and general manager for A Ponnock & CO. a leading toy wholesaler who serviced the greater Philadelphia area and Mid-Atlantic states. Mel later served as a key account executive at both TYCO and TYCO Preschool. Mel is remembered for being tough but fair, a hard work ethic, a keen eye for product, his love of sports and a great sense of humor. He will be missed by all those he worked with during a long and distinguished toy career. Rest in Play Mel.

Robert Krakoff (October 4, 1940 - April 26, 2022)  “Razerguy”, the co-founder and former president of gaming hardware company Razer, died last week at the age of 81. Maybe you’ve never heard Krakoff’s name, but it’s possible you’ve been impacted by his far-reaching legacy. In 1999, Krakoff was behind the first-ever gaming mouse: the Razer Boomslang. Not only was it the foundation of Razer’s now-massive lineup of gaming mice, it arguably jumpstarted the entire gaming peripheral industry. Below, you can see Krakoff himself in an ad promoting the Razer Boomslang mouse in 2002 — alongside professional gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, who signed a historic sponsorship deal with Razer long before the word “esports” entered the lexicon.  

Origin stories can be complicated, and the story of Razer is more convoluted than most. Razer wasn’t actually a company until 2005 — it was the trademarked brand of an entity called Kärna, which had invented an opto-mechanical encoding wheel that could track a mouse’s movements at 2000 dpi, far higher resolution than other mice at the time. (Yes, the first gaming mouse rolled on wheels, even though optical mice were becoming a thing.)

Kärna went bankrupt in 2001, and Krakoff co-founded Razer the company with current CEO Min-Liang Tan in 2005, but neither man invented the gaming mouse: This case study (pdf) details how a marketing agency named Fitch created the entire Razer brand, including the name, the iconic three-headed snake logo, the website, the packaging, and most importantly, the design and engineering of the Boomslang mouse itself.

None of this is in dispute: Razer’s first press release says the Boomslang was “designed by Fitch, Inc. for kärna.”

But it also quotes a “Robert Krakoff, general manager for Razer” — who would not only become the public face of the company for its first decade and change, but make an incredible impression as one of the most accessible public faces of a company you might ever have the pleasure to know.

You’d get a little message from Razerguy with every Razer product you purchased, and his public email address wasn’t just for show. He was known to respond to fans and sit down for interviews with scrappy journalists who barely had a following. Sometimes he’d give them jobs. According to his Facebook page, he studied journalism at UCLA himself, though he did so on a football scholarship.

He was also remarkably candid: in 2009, he told me, Sean, a similarly unknown journalist, that the company didn’t actually need to sell a single unit of his brand-new Razer Mamba wireless mouse at its then-exorbitant price of $130. The point, he said, was to inspire a huge audience of gamers with the innovation, knowing they’d choose other cheaper mice and merchandise from Razer.

A known leftie, he also told me he wished Razer could make a left-handed mouse, but that he didn’t have power as president of the company to make it happen — the board had apparently decided it didn’t make financial sense. A year later, I smiled when I saw Razer release the first left-handed gaming mouse, a mirror-image version of its best-selling DeathAdder.

While Krakoff still advised the company for years as a “President Emeritus,” Razer wasn’t his last act by a long shot. He also founded MindFX Science, a brand that focuses on selling energy drinks and supplements, serving as “a healthy alternative to the highly caffeinated energy drinks and pre-workout products.”

Fitness seemed to be an important part of Krakoff’s life. He played for the Los Angeles Rams for five years in the 1960s. As he grew older, Krakoff said he loved playing tennis, biking, and fitness training. He and his wife, Dr. Patsi Krakoff, even ran a blog focused on fitness and nutrition tips for seniors, and co-wrote a book about the secrets to staying young.

But under the name RM Krakoff, he also had a literary career all his own — writing a dozen books since 2009. After working as a copywriter, Krakoff said he “put his proverbial pen where his mouth was (the ink tasted like shit).” He dabbled in both fiction and nonfiction writing, penning everything from black comedies to sci-fi fantasies. His description of America Unbound: Fighting Demons in a Vanished Democracy is... a lot.

On Krakoff’s Facebook page, he said he would split his time between Jalisco, Mexico and Peoria, Arizona, as he enjoyed being “a sunbird and spending six months a year in each home.” He leaves behind two children, Scott and Robin, and five “very cool” grandchildren. Scott contributed the cover art for most of his novels.

“We are saddened by the passing of Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Robert Krakoff, known by everyone as RazerGuy,” reads a statement from Razer on Twitter. “Robert’s unwavering drive and passion for gaming lives on and continues to inspire all of us.”

 

Don Rubin (April 6, 1945 - April 8, 2022) Donald Joel Rubin, one of the world's premier creators of games and puzzles, died of cancer at his home in Santa Rosa, California on April 8, 2022. Don was born April 6, 1945 in Malden, Mass. He graduated magna cum laude from Boston University's College of Communication. 
His exceptional career evolved from teaching school in Maine, to serving as a creative consultant, scriptwriter, game designer, photographer, puzzler, research historian, contributing editor and writer. In the late 1980's his creation "The Real Puzzle" was first published in the Boston Phoenix, then The Real Paper, prior to its syndication in over 300 national and international newspapers and magazines through United Features Syndicate. The Real Puzzle generated so much fan mail that the U.S. Post Office gave Don his own zip code. Don became a mini expert in each field that was the focus of the weekly puzzle and attributed his creativity to a "poor diet and lack of sleep". He wrote many books including, "The Real Puzzle Book", "What's the Big Idea", "Those Incredible Puzzles", "Think Tank", "Brainstorms" and "More Brainstorms". His Parking Lot Puzzle has been called "one of the greatest puzzles of all time."
As print media gradually began to fade, Don refocused his creative genius on interactive games with original content working as a Senior Game Designer at Shockwave, Firemint, Ringzero Networks, and Electronic Arts. Don was a member of the Screen Writers Guild, with clients including Paramount Pictures, PBS NOVA, several Fortune 500 companies, and educational institutions. Don won numerous awards for editorial design, art direction, television and film design, photography, game design, advertising copywriting, and Web content development.
Although Don did not have children, he was an animal lover. At times he cared for many dogs, both his own and friends, bottle-fed a kangaroo, herded and fed cattle on an Australian working ranch, and back at home in Santa Rosa helped with the dogs, cats, chickens and bees.
Many friends sought out his keen intellect and insight into everything from current events, arts and cultural trends, to his astute reflections on everyday life. Don was a great fan of Samuel Beckett and could recite, "Waiting for Godot" in its entirety from memory, quoting recently, "I've talked with you about this and that, I explained the twilight, admittedly. But is it enough, that's what tortures me, is it enough
" (Pozzo)

 

Wieland Herold (1950-2022) - (from his son Florian Herold) - Wieland Herold has passed away. Wieland was a lot of things.

He was a husband, father of four children, school leader. But he also had a significant role in the press world of board games. For many years he acted as part of the jury "Game of the Year", as part of the "Göttinger Author Meeting" and as the editor of the magazine "Game and Author".

In recent years, he had put his focus on family, but still wrote about games and book reviews for his blog almost daily. At the end of his life, he was still a premier lecturer and photographer.

He was a great supporter of the development and the rights of German playwright.

What is important, he was also a beloved friend, a four-time grandfather and was always there for the family.

In my brother's h2o publication, there will be a game that he has contributed a lot to soon. This was the first time he worked hard on a game himself. It comforts me because after his death there will be something of him that will always remind me of him.

At the end of his life, he was not alone.

I asked him if anything is still open? He said “No, that’s all said.”

His words remain. He was a master of words. If you want to know more about him, you can read it at: http://www.mit80.de/

His last post is from mid-December. As long as he could, he always wrote texts.

I miss him every second.

He was my father.

Florian Herold

 

Undrea Leach. Streamer, voice actor and consultant Undrea Leach passed away in February. As reported by Game Developer, Leach entered the games industry via her work as a Twitch streamer, and later expanded into voice acting, appearing in indie titles such as Last Line of Retreat and Starcrossed. Leech also worked as a diversity consultant, and co-ran an initiative that helped industry professionals look for new jobs in games alongside writer Mitch Dyer.  Peers and friends shared tributes to Leach via Twitter. Fellow streamer Brooklyn (bklynbridge) said "she was a light in countless lives and she is missed terribly," while Dyer commented: "This is devastating. Nothing but love to her friends and family." Leach's family is raising funds via GoFundMe to cover burial costs.

 

Gilbert Gottfried, Aladdin Voice Actor and Comedian, Dead at 67 'After a Long Illness'. April 12, 2022. Known for his work in comedy films and as Iago in Disney's 1992 classic Aladdin, Gottfried was instantly recognizable for his over-the-top, exaggerated voice. A standup comic with a podcast called Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast! — the last new episode of which aired on April 4 — Gottfried was also known for his work on the popular PBS Kids show Cyberchase. His notable films include Look Who's Talking Too, Problem Child and Beverly Hills Cop II. He was also the focus of the 2017 documentary film Gilbert, about his prolific life and career. Gottfried reprised his Aladdin voice role of Iago — the villain Jafar's morally torn, wisecracking parrot sidekick — in the sequels The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), as well as in various other Disney specials and series.

 

Fujiko Fujio A (real name Motoo Abiko) - passed away on April 7th, 2022 at his residence in Kawasaki, Tokyo. He was 88. Fujiko Fujio A is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Fujiko F. Fujio (real name Hiroshi Fujimoto) under the collective pseudonym Fujiko Fujio. The duo penned the world-famous Doraemon manga about the titular robot cat from the future and his friendship with the boy Nobita. The manga ran from 1970 to 1996. The pair worked together before parting in 1987, with Abiko taking the Fujiko Fujio A pseudonym, and Fujimoto taking the Fujiko Fujio F (later Fujiko F. Fujio) pseudonym. Fujimoto passed away in 1996. Doraemon has launched one of the most successful children's media franchises in the world, inspiring numerous anime films and three separate television anime runs, the third of which began in 2005 and is still ongoing and remains one of the most highly rated anime on Japanese television week after week.

Motoo Abiko also penned a number of successful manga series, including Ninja Hattori-kunKaibutsu-kunPro Golfer Saru, and Warau Salesman. Ninja Hattori-kun inspired a television anime that ran from 1981 to 1987, three anime films from 1982 to 1984, and a live-action film in 2004. Kaibutsu-kun inspired two television anime that ran from 1968 to 1969 and 1980 to 1982, respectively, as well as two anime films in 1981 and 1982. Pro Golfer Saru inspired a 1982 TV anime special, a television anime that ran from 1985 to 1988, and two anime films in 1986 and 1987. Warau Salesman inspired a television anime that ran from 1989 to 1992, as well as The Laughing Salesman NEW, a 2017 television anime that represents the latest adaptation of his individual work.

 

Jake Sivner - Toy World is sad to report the recent untimely passing of industry ‘rising star’ Jake Sivner at only 22 years of age. Following the sad news, friends and colleagues have issued the following statement:  “Jake had a zest for life and lived it to the full. Blessed with his dad’s charisma and confidence, he built up so many great relationships in such a short space of time and left a good impression on everyone he met. He was always professional and courteous and carried himself in a way you would expect from someone 10 years his senior. Everyone was always surprised when they realised just how young he was.”

Ben Russell, Zuru’s SVP, remembers Jake’s first days working in Hong Kong: “Jake started at Zuru as an intern in January 2018, supporting the sales manager for Asia during the Hong Kong and Nuremberg Toy fairs. At only 18 years old, Jake already had an impressive knowledge of the industry. When given the opportunity to pitch product, it was clear that he was a natural and very talented salesman. Jake had big ambitions and was eager to start working, so at the end of his internship, we were more than pleased to offer him a role as a sales executive, supporting sales in Asia.”

Although enthusiastic about gaining a position at the company, Jake continued to push for more responsibilities, and within his first 12 months was promoted to account manager with full territory responsibilities for Southern Europe.

Ben continued: “There were many highlights and wins for the business while Jake was at Zuru, but it was also clear that he needed more than we could offer at the time, so Jake decided to move on to become sales director with a puzzle & games company covering all markets. Jake remained a friend of Zuru and myself after he left, and we were all looking forward to seeing him again once the fairs and industry travel started again. Jake had a heart of gold and embodied the expression of ‘living life to its fullest’. His loss will be felt not only by those closest to him but also by those lucky enough to have crossed paths with this charismatic and charming young man.”

Since leaving Hong Kong, Jake went about setting up his own company, JAS Ultimate, and growing a range of toy brands into North America. The statement continues: “He had a keen eye for supply gaps that his company could support and aside from toys, worked with factories in South East Asia to develop and grow a range of kids furniture solutions. This would have been a whole new revenue stream through Wal-Mart and Target and a fine example of the broad commercial head Jake had on those young shoulders.”

Jake’s father, Marc Sivner, founder of Singleton Trading added: “Not only have we lost our precious son but we’ve lost a rising star in the toy industry.”

 

Michael G. Landsman, 85. He was the president and CEO of a number of companies: Superior Toy, Tudor Games, Peoria Plastics, HG Toys, and Miggle Toys. Michael was always generous and philanthropic, donating to a wide range of organizations. He loved golf, card games, traveling, and dining with his beloved Delayne. He will be deeply missed by family and his wide circle of friends.  Michael was the beloved husband of Delayne, née Hillman; devoted father of Barry J. Landsman and Stacy (Mark) LeBrun; proud grandfather of Rachel (Kevin) Daley and Ryan LeBrun; dear brother of Stephen A. (Beth) Landsman; caring uncle of Mark Landsman, Scott Landsman, and Sari Knight; treasured son of the late Sam and Jeanne; loving nephew of René (late Sheldon) Engerman; will be missed by many close cousins. The family would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Michael's exceptional caregiver Bob. Michael was born in Chicago and grew up in West Rogers Park and Oak Park.

Charles Marx, passed on April 4, 2022. Charles was the son of David Marx and newphew of Louis Marx. Louis and David co-founded the Louis Marx and Company.  From a friend and collegue of Charles, Jerry Cleary, "Charles was a great guy and a terrific Toy Person in his own right. Charles always carried himself with dignity and class and never used his name or celebrity back in the day to bully or take advantage of colleagues or customers. A family man, he was charismatic, kind and respectful of all who worked with him. Charles had a great eye for product and built a terrific segment of business for the company back in the day when retailers like Sears and Montgomery Ward had a significant market share in toys with their catalog operations. The customers loved Charles who had a great knack for supporting and balancing the needs of customer and company. I don't think Charles ever got the credit he deserved for his contributions to our industry. He was a true role model in how to conduct yourself as a businessperson and as an individual. I think I was the last salesperson hired by the old Louis Marx company and I have many fond memories of working with Charles for many years.  I lost touch with Charles over the past several years and just wanted to express my thoughts on  this wonderful person. May he rest in peace!!"

Estelle Harris, Mrs. Potato Head in 'Toy Story' series, dies at 93. Harris was best known for her distinctive voice and comedic timing, forever cemented by her role as the mother of George (Jason Alexander) in Seinfeld, where she appeared on 27 episodes. Her foil was Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza, and the three characters engaged in countless scenes of lovable bickering. 

She also had a robust voice career, anchored by her work as Mrs. Potato Head in the second, third and fourth chapters of the Toy Story series. Channelling the verve of her Seinfeld role, she has a loving and nagging relationship with Mr. Potato Head, perfectly voiced by Don Rickles.

From there, she popped up in many animated projects large and small, including films such as Brother Bear (2003) and Tarzan II (2005) and series such as Hercules, The Wild Thornberrys and Godzilla: The Series (all from 1998). – Reuters

Scott Bennie - Games writer, producer and designer Scott Bennie has died from pneumonia at the age of 61. News of his passing was shared on his Facebook page, reported via PC Gamer. Bennie is best known for his stint at Interplay during the 1990s, where he worked as a producer and designer on several RPG games including the studio's The Lord of The Rings adaptations and strategy title Castles: Northern Campaign. 

He also worked as a writer across several Star Trek titles, including Starfleet Command 1 and 2, Starfleet Academy, as well as the original Fallout game. Bennie also contributed several tabletop games throughout his career, including Dungeons & Dragons, Marvel Superheroes, and Hero Games' Champions. Industry figures, peers and former colleagues paid tribute to Bennie and his work on Twitter. Developer and Interplay founding member Rebecca Heineman called Bennie "a great game designer and writer," and added, "I will miss him." InXile studio head Brian Fargo wrote: " I was saddened to hear that Scott Bennie died today. He was a brilliant writer who worked with us at Interplay on some true classics like Star Trek: Judgment Rites and Starfleet Academy. RIP." Author Matt Forbeck said: "I'm sad to hear of the passing of my old friend Scott Bennie, who I met through the wonderful, tight-knit community of Hero Games designers back in the early 1990s. He was a sharp man, full of neat ideas, and bumping into him at a convention was always a highlight of that week."

 

Mohammad Fahmi - Coffee Talk creator and writer Mohammad Fahmi has passed away. The news was shared on social media by Fahmi's family and his colleagues at Coffee Talk developer Toge Productions. "Today we've received the most devastating of news. Our beloved Fahmi, the writer of Coffee Talk and a beloved friend of Toge Productions has passed away. We are absolutely devastated by his early departure," wrote the studio.

"Thank you for everything you had done for Toge Productions, for the indie game industry, for your friends and family. We will never forget you and you will always be in our hearts." Over the years, Fahmi worked on numerous projects including What Comes After, Afterlove EP, and Code Atma as a game designer, writer, and director. He also spent time at Gameloft as a programmer and designer, lending his talents to games such as Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and The Oregon Trail: American Settler.

 

Dean O'Donnell, a Massachusetts game industry fixture who wrote games and taught at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, has died at age 57. Word of O'Donnell's passing comes from an obituary posted in The Boston Globe. Some of his former students have taken to social media to share news of his passing as well. O'Donnell's life in games contributed to a number of early independent games from the early role-playing-game era, and eventually contributed words to the Titan Quest expansion Titan Quest: Immortal Throne. He taught at WPI for the last 29 years and helped create the university's Interactive Media and Games Development program. On Twitter, former students remembered how he encouraged them to chase social meaning in their game ideas, and expand the boundaries of what was possible in narrative games. His interests also included alternate reality games, table-top roleplaying games, and "overly complicated board games." He is survived by his wife, his sister, two nieces, and his great-niece.

R.I.P. Marcus King. ICv2 columnist, GAMA officer, and longtime game and comic retailer Marcus King passed away Tuesday, March 22, following heart surgery, according to numerous Facebook posts by friends.  King’s own final Facebook post, on Sunday afternoon, shared a selfie from his hospital bed and revealed he was going to have heart bypass surgery on Monday.  He’d had a heart attack, and was also suffering from Covid and pneumonia.

"This will be my last update with my old heart in bad shape,” he wrote. “In the morning, I am having either a triple or quadruple bypass, they’re just not sure. I will probably post again in three or four days, hopefully. Thanks for being my friend.”

King was a columnist for ICv2 from 2010 to 2017, sharing the lessons he’d learned in his 30+ years as a retailer. "Marcus was an original thinker, and he contributed many great columns to ICv2, sharing lessons he’d learned in decades in the business, and reflections on his life as a retailer," ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said of King. "He had a warm heart, a sense of humor, and a generous spirit. He will be missed."

King began his retailing career in 1986, when he opened his first store in Anchorage, Alaska.  He opened Titan Games in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1994, and a second store in Kalamazoo in 2009 (see "View from the Game Store – Defining Success"). Although he he was best known as a retailer of tabletop games, he also handled (and wrote about) comics, collectible video games, and other products of interest to his customers.

In 2011, King sold his Michigan stores and moved to Kentucky, where he continued to retail, including a stint managing a retail store for online retailer Troll and Toad, and most recently at Main Street Games & Comics in London, Kentucky.

King was also active in GAMA for many years, including as board member and Vice President beginning in 2005, as a board member in the Retailer Division, and as a speaker at GAMA events.

King was passionate about retailing, constantly experimenting and sharing what he learned with fellow retailers in his column, posts on other sites, and on social media.  He was one of an early generation of game and comic retailers who pushed the business forward and unselfishly helped to grow the pie for everyone. His columns hold up: here’s a list.

Before he passed away, King had set up a Facebook fundraiser to help with expenses, money that will doubtless be needed by his family. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Emilio Delgado, ‘Sesame Street’s’ Luis for more than 40 years, has died. The actor died Thursday at his home in New York City. He had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in 2020, according to a report from TMZ, citing his wife. Delgado had remained active in theater, starring in “Quixote Nuevo,” a version of “Don Quixote,” before the pandemic struck in early 2020. His extensive stage work included serving as artistic director of the Barrio Theatre Ensemble of East Los Angeles.

Still, he’ll be best remembered for the popular children’s program. Delgado had cited the PBS show’s importance as a cultural touchstone in the way people of color were depicted on TV.

“For the first time on television, they showed Latinos as real human beings,” Delgado told the Houston Chronicle in 2020. “We weren’t dope addicts. We weren’t maids or prostitutes, which were the way we were being shown in television and in film. Here, on ‘Sesame Street,’ there were different people who spoke different languages and ate interesting foods, and they were all Americans.”

“A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations,” Sesame Workshop said of Delgado in a statement to CNN. “At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the ‘record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.’ We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world.” READ MORE  . . . 

Ira P. Hernowitz - June 23, 1965 - March 6, 2022. Ira passed away after a long battle with cancer. Ira was born in The Bronx, NYC in June of 1965. He went away to sleepaway camp at Camp Olympus in upstate New York at a young age. The friends he made at camp would stay with him throughout his life, and the experiences he had there shaped him into the kind, generous leader that he was.  He attended the Bronx High School of Science and later Syracuse University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science and met his wife, Nancy. His passion and brilliance led him to an illustrious career in a wide variety of businesses, including Hasbro, Toys “R” Us, Kindara Fertility, and Carson Dellosa Education. In every position he held, he was a leader and an innovator while also incorporating kindness into everything he did and constantly pushed others to exceed expectations. He traveled extensively and had no hesitations about trying new foods or ordering sushi for the table. Those around him knew he could always be counted on for a nuanced opinion or sage advice.  He was deeply loved by his family and friends. They knew him as tenacious, brilliant, and resilient in the face of challenges. He was a mentor, a comedian, and had an incredible patience and perspective that endeared him to everyone he met. He was a skilled writer, an avid golfer who belonged to both Potowomut Golf Club in RI and Suntree Country Club in FL, and a frustratingly good Scrabble player. He was a kind soul who cared deeply about the well-being of all people. All who knew him will carry him with them always.

Steve Webb, head of Retail at Cartamundi, has passed away after a short battle with cancer, Toy World is sad to report. Dan King, general manager UK at Cartamundi, reached out to Toy World to say: “Steve had been fighting cancer for the last 10 months and he leaves behind his wife Nic and children Gracie and Jack. He was so brave and showed so much tenacity and positivity throughout this battle, which was why he was such a great sales person. Steve had only recently started his position but in the short time he was with the company he quickly became a much-loved member of the team. We are all going to miss him terribly and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.” Before taking up the role at Cartamundi, Steve spent several years at One For Fun (formerly H. Grossman) as strategic account manager. Prior to this, he also worked for A.B.Gee as a national account manager. David Mordecai, One For Fun CEO, said: “Steve was full of life, fun and laughter, and throughout his illness always tried to beat it and never ever moaned or got depressed in any shape or form. He was an inspiration to us all. He would rather be talking about his time playing football with Wimbledon and the Crazy Gang and having a pint. As his illness worsened, his bravery in how he dealt with it was remarkable. Our hearts go out to his family. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues everywhere, his customers, his friends and most of all his family.”​

Kim Jung-ju - founder of free-to-play giant Nexon, has died at age 54. Word of Kim's passing comes from The Korea Times, who was informed of his death by a Nexon spokesperson. He apparently died last month in the United States. Nexon did not provide a cause of death in its statement to The Korean Times. It did state that Kim "had been receiving treatment for depression, and we are sad that it seemed to have worsened recently."  Kim founded Nexon in 1994 after graduating from Seoul National University. The developer and publisher grew to be a powerhouse in South Korea's game industry on the back of games like MapleStory, and KartRider. Its recent hits have included Mabinogi and Vindictus.

Nexon is now headquartered in Tokyo under parent company NXC Corp., where it went public on the Japanese Stock Market in 2011.

Kim is survived by his wife and two daughters.

John Maxim -  Prolific toy and game inventor-engineer John Maxim died on February 6th at his home in Dallas, Texas, it was announced by his son, Michael. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. John began his career in the early 70s at Mattel in Preliminary Design. After several years at Mattel, he left to become an independent inventor. Among John’s many licensed inventions were Bumble Ball (Ertl), The Cutter (Crayola), Guzzlers (Ideal Toys), SpectraColor Image Pad (Irwin), Wibbly Wobbly Egg Race game (Vivid Imagination), Power Command Hot Wheels (Mattel) and countless other playthings. John was awarded dozens of patents. Later in his career, he was a founding member of the Sunshine Santas, a tight knit group of independent inventors residing in south Florida. John came to his ingenuity naturally. It was in his DNA. His family tree includes Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916), an American-British inventor best known as the creator of the first automatic machine gun, the Maxim gun. He was knighted in 1901. Hiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936), an MIT graduate, invented the first commercially successful sound suppressor for firearms (the silencer). He also developed mufflers for internal combustion engines. John’s son, Michael, an engineer, spent eight years at Space X before leaving to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an independent inventor.

In his final days, John enjoyed his lifelong passion for creating toys, communicating with colleagues around the country about projects in development. (written by Richard C. Levy)

John Galt - His work spanned movies, TV, and video games, had died at age 81. Developer/publisher 3D Realms shared news of his passing on Sunday. Galt had worked with 3D Realms on games like Shadow Warrior and the original Prey. He voiced main character Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior, and played Grandfather Enisi in Prey. His other video game credits included John Romero's Daikatana, Ion Storm's Deus Ex, and more. 

On the silver screen, he provided the voice for President Lyndon B. Johnson in Forrest Gump and Oliver Stone's conspiracy film J.F.K. Galt's long acting career began in 1958, and he would make the jump to the world of television in 1974. In a 2019 interview with YouTube channel Jake The Voice, he explained that he landed the role of Lo Wang after doing monster voices for 3D Realms.

Bernard Smith - Toy World is sad to report that industry stalwart Bernard Smith has died aged 79, on 18th January after a short illness. Bernard Smith enjoyed a long and successful career in toys, starting in 1967 when he took on the role of area sales manager at Mattel. He then built up his sales expertise with roles at Tonka, Peter Pan and JW Spears – a company he returned to as sales director in 1990. This was followed by further stints at Mattel, Kitfix Swallow, United Overseas, Upstarts and University Games. Bernard decided to slow the pace a little in 2014, but loved the toy trade so much that he only managed semi-retirement and continued to keep his hand in as a sales agent for Rascals, a role he kept on until very recently. At the Toymaster Show in May 2013, Bernard was recognised by his industry peers as the recipient of a Golden Teddy. His nomination described him as ‘honest, kind, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal and friendly  – he brightens up the office with his great sense of humour.’ Friend and colleage Tom White shared a personal memory about the day: “Bernard’s face was a picture as his name was announced, and he froze in his chair from the complete shock of it!” Bernard’s motto was to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and his co-workers said that customers ‘loved and respected him’. Over his many years in the trade, he trained and supported a vast number of sales executives throughout the industry, who found him a dependable source of support, even through times of change and challenge. Bernard is survived by his wife Jo, son James, daughters Emma and Sara, stepsons Tom and Jack and nine grandchildren. 

2021

Paul McLaughlin - Career artist who worked on Fable, Black & White, and Godus. The UK games industry paid tribute to career artist Paul McLaughlin who died aged 57 in December. His career spanned over 30 years where he was most recently head of art for developer 22cans. He worked on titles such as Curiosity, Godus, and The Trial. Prior to serving in that role he was studio art director at Lionhead for 15 years. At the company he was responsible for the development of the Fable and Black & White series. As reported by Eurogamer, industry figures who worked with the career artist shared their thoughts on his passing, one of them being long-time collaborator and colleague Peter Molyneux. "Paul entered my life back in 1990 when he started at Bullfrog as employee number four. He was the first proper games artist I had ever encountered. Immediately he became invaluable, an essential part of the many titles we all worked on. He absolutely made all the difference on Powermonger, Syndicate, Magic Carpet, Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper," said Molyneux. "Then, when Lionhead was set up, he not only guided Black & White, The Movies and Fable but also helped direct the company. A great artist, a wonderful mentor and an inspirational man." He continues, "Paul was a huge cornerstone in my life. He was a professional, moral and funny person who had the ability to see the fair and sensible approach in any situation. I miss him every day in every way. His legacy will be felt and seen for a long, long time."  Paul McLaughlin is survived by his wife and three children.​

Russell Lees - Ubisoft veteran writer and narrative designer Russell Lees has died. News of his passing came from Ubisoft Montreal's narrative director Darby McDevitt. "We lost a dear friend and brilliant colleague this week," he wrote on Twitter. "Writer and narrative designer Russell Lees was a part of the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry families for over a decade. All who worked with him will attest to his patience, his generosity, his passion, and his bright spirit. "He will be missed, and remembered always as the most ideal artist in this busy, hectic industry -- devoted, collaborative, patient, and kind beyond measure." Lees had spent the last 13 years at Ubisoft Montreal, with a particular focus on the Assassin's Creed franchise. He contributed to AC Valhalla's Sciropscire and Oxenefordscire arcs, to AC Origins with the Wrath of the Druids DLC, to AC Syndicate with the Dreadful Crimes missions, to AC Unity with the Paris stories and Murder Mysteries, and wrote the Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin's Creed 3, among others.  He also worked on Far Cry New Dawn and Watch Dogs 2, and was a prolific and successful playwright.

Lees had started in the games industry in 1995 as creative director on The Dark Eye at developer Inscape. He also worked at the likes of Zoesis Studios, Pandemic Studios, and Sensory Sweep before joining Ubisoft in 2009. Eidos Montreal's principal writer Ethan Petty, who previously collaborated with Lees on Watch Dogs 2, also paid tribute to him on Twitter. "He was one of the kindest people I've ever worked with and had an incredible sense of humor," he said. "His work brought thrills and laughs to millions of players. He will be greatly missed."

Gordon (Gordie) D. Otis -  Steve Springer of Max Margin Merchandising shares the following about Gordie with us:    Gordon was a toy buyer with "Twin Fair, a chain in Buffalo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Fair  He then worked for a Buffalo based catalog showroom chain called Century Housewares: http://blog.buffalostories.com/tag/brand-names/  I first met Gordon in Western NY (1979) when I became a toy buyer with a competitor, Naum's Catalog Showrooms (corporate office in Rochester NY).  This was a golden era for the catalog showroom class of trade.  In Western NY alone we had four:  Century Housewares, Brand Names, Present Company, and Naum Brothers.  Nationally others in this class of trade included Best Products, Service Merchandise and Ardans.  The entire industry started to disappear by end of the 80's, especially as whse clubs started to emerge. Gordon's next job was with Hills department Stores in Canton MA.  We were worked together as toy buyers in the crazy year of 1984.  Every category had a "hot" item.  Gordon bought Trivial Pursuit from Selchow & Righter.  I bought Cabbage Patch dolls from Coleco.  Masters of The Universe, GI Joe and Care Bears were also "Hot" and in short supply.  One funny story was in an attempt to get delivery from Selchow & Righter, Gordon went to their Long Island corporate office and stayed in the lobby for three days until they shipped his order.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selchow_and_Righter  Gordon then became an independent New England rep with a NYC agency, Ray Larson Associates.  After RL he started his own agency under the name "Playtime Ventures".  He called on New England accounts until about five years ago (2017).  Anyone who had the pleasure of working with Gordon will tell you he was "a great guy" and a joy to work with.  Many remember how he could light up a room with his unique laugh, which I describe as a chuckle.

Margaret Goldie. Toy World is sad to report the passing of popular independent retailer Margaret Goldie. When she retired back in 2007, Margaret summed up her career by saying: “You can’t wish to be in a better trade than the toy trade.” Margaret opened her first shop in Holbrooks, Coventry in 1972 and opened further shops in the Westmead Centre, Allesley Park, and the first floor of Intershop, in Bull Yard. Margaret subsequently opened a shop in the Lower Precinct in 1982, closing her first two shops at the same time. The Lower Precinct and Intershop branches closed in 1989 and 2000, respectively, and she moved to City Arcade.  On her retirement, Margaret told the Coventry Telegraph: “My most treasured toy is a six-foot Rupert Bear given to me to celebrate 25 years in the toy trade.” She also said that said her job was very rewarding for the happiness it has brought Coventry children over the years: “It’s lovely, you just imagine Christmas Day when they’re opening their toys.” Well-known Midlands agent John Nicholas told Toy World: “Margaret was an excellent buyer of toys, backing her judgement with some large orders. Her window displays won her many prizes, including an Austin Mini for her Care Bears window. In 2002, she was sponsored by John Hales of Golden Bear to be awarded a Golden Teddy for her contribution to the toy industry, which she was thrilled to bits with.” John added: “During the 1990s, she used to invite reps and agents along with a few retailer friends to her flat near Earls Court during the Toy Fair. You were always proud to be asked. A super lady who loved life, may she rest in peace.”

John Madden: NFL coach, broadcaster and video game icon dies at 85. Legendary American Football coach and commentator John Madden has died at the age of 85, the National Football League (NFL) has announced. The league said he died unexpectedly and did not give a cause.  Madden led the then-Oakland Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory in 1977 and became a hugely popular television analyst after retiring from coaching. He later became the face of Madden NFL Football, one of the most successful sports video games ever.  "Nobody loved football more than Coach," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.  "There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."  Madden coached the Raiders from 1969 to 1978. He won Super Bowl XI when they went through the 1976 regular season with a 13-1 record.  He boasts the best winning percentage of NFL coaches who have taken charge of more than 100 games.  But he will perhaps be best remembered for his three-decade career in commentary, after retiring from coaching at just 42.  Known for his unpretentious style, Madden travelled to games in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia. He also developed a fear of flying.  Many younger fans know him as the man who gave his name to Madden NFL, published by EA Sports since 1988. The video game became so influential that some players and coaches learned new tactics from playing it.  Madden NFL became renowned for its realistic gameplay. EA first approached Madden with the idea in 1984, but it took four years before he was finally satisfied with the game, insisting it had to be as realistic as possible.  John Madden won 16 Emmy Awards and covered 11 Super Bowls from 1979 to 2009. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.  "People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?" he said when was elected to the Hall of Fame. "I'm a coach, always been a coach." 

Mark Taylor - A legendary figure in the creation of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe (MOTU) franchise has died. Designer Mark Taylor was credited with shaping much of the MOTU aesthetic and the design for countless characters that contributed to the massive success of the MOTU brand in the 1980s. While formal credits for the development of He-Man and Skeletor have often been disputed over the years, Taylor’s work, along with that of another Mattel designer — Roger Sweet — eventually became the toys that are familiar to millions.  Some key design elements that shaped He-Man and other residents of Eternia were pulled from Taylor’s Torak: Hero of Pre-History, a barbarian-esque character that was in and out of development for many years pre-dating the launch of the MOTU brand in 1982.  Taylor’s work at Mattel began in the 1970s as a member of the Visual Design Group working on packaging for Barbie. Following his work on the MOTU franchise, Taylor went on to become a key figure in the development of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) line at Playmates Toys in 1987. Taylor’s work has been explored in numerous documentaries, including Power of Grayskull and The Toys That Made Us.  His Christmas Eve passing was confirmed by his wife, Rebecca Salari Taylor via Facebook.  Mark Taylor was 80 years old.

Jeff Hunter, Owner and CEO of Hunter Products Pty Ltd., popular Australian toy stalwart Jeff Hunter sadly passed away just before Christmas. 

Jeff was a hugely popular, larger-than-life character who was always seen at global toy industry shows and social events in Hong Kong, London, Nuremberg and many other places around the globe. Jeff’s daughter, Madeleine Hunter, product manager at Hunter Products, posted the following notice on LinkedIn: “As many of you know, we lost our Dad, the greatest salesman, Jeff Hunter on Thursday at 12.30am. He was surrounded by the six of us, as he would have wanted. Dad could sell ice to the eskimos and he got the biggest buzz when he got the order. He was a big kid and he just loved toys. Dad, we will ‘never never never give up’ and we will ‘sell, sell, sell’ and get that massive hit we always talked about – I promise you that. Rest in Peace Dad, your bubbly energy and enthusiasm will live on inside us all every day.”

MGA’s Isaac Larian referred to Jeff as “a legend in our industry”, while Richard North added the following tribute to Jeff: “For those who don’t know Jeff, he would light up any room he entered and leave it brighter than when he walked in. For those who did know Jeff, they will know he was always laughing and his stories were legendary and often carried words of wisdom. I know he would be proud to know that I’ve forgotten most of them simply because by the morning of any night out with Jeff and Jimbo, my head would hurt and my memory had gone. God bless you Jeff and your fantastic kids, who take the business forward in your amazing spirit and honour.”

Barry Burlison - Tribute from Jack Morrissey: Barry Burlison was a highly talented and creative individual. He always found a way to make things he developed work and as such sell at retail. In the late 1970's I worked with him on an ingeneous greeting card project he developed called POPCORN. It was comprised of 3D Popup cards for Birthday, Thank you, Congrats, etc. Barry set the standard for this genre that exists today. He also developed Popup Cards for travel/vacation destinations, such as Graceland, Duns River Falls. Etc. The photo above is of us at the NYC Stationery Show in 1980. Barry had great success in marketing the Science Tech line with Bowen Hill Mfg in Hong Kong. The line consisted of Microscopes. Telescopes, and science based playthings including flying saucers. Barry's talent, his kindness and his humor will be missed by all that had the privilege to know and work with him.

Henry Orenstein, Hole Card Cam Inventor & Transformers Catalyst, passes Away at 98.  The man responsible for changing the way we watch poker on TV, Henry Orenstein, passed away at age 98. Details of his passing weren't immediately available. Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, is credited with inventing the hole card cam, arguably the top game-changer in poker.

The hole card camera, which exposes each player's cards to a television audience, was invented and patented by Orenstein in 1995. He didn't introduce the revolutionary product to the public until 1999 when the U.K.'s Channel 4 Late Night Poker show was first to use the hole cam.

Poker has never been the same and has grown significantly in popularity since that creative invention. Nowadays, virtually every poker event on TV or livestream utilizes the hole cam. Without it, there likely never would have been a poker boom in the early 2000s, and few recreational fans would be able to pick Chris Moneymaker out of a lineup.  Orenstein lived a full life and was one of the most respected and treasured members of the poker community. He was born October 13, 1923 in Poland. He survived a Nazi concentration camp, dealt with his parents being murdered by Nazis in Germany, and emigrated to the U.S. where he became a successful businessman and poker player.

When Orenstein arrived in the U.S. in 1942, he lived with his uncle in New York. He'd go on to start a toy company that was highly profitable and innovative. The future Poker Hall of Famer left such a mark on the toy industry that he was given credit for being the catalyst behind the creation of Transformers, one of the hottest selling children's toys in history. Without his vision to see potential in an unknown toy in the 1980s, Transformers may have never become so popular. As a poker player, he could hold his own on the felt. In 1995, he reached the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event final table and took eighth place for $51,900. The following year, he won his first and only bracelet, a $130,000 score in $5,000 Limit Seven Card Stud. In 2014, he reached the $10,000 Seven Card Stud final table and was eliminated in eighth place for $31,419.

Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect on the NES and Super NES consoles, died on 6th December at the age of 78. Uemura was an instrumental figure in the formation of Nintendo as the video game company we know and love today — his hardware design credits date back to the 1970s, and he also has a fair list of software producer credits to his name. It's no exaggeration to say that millions of players across the world have his engineering skill and expertise to thank for the systems we played in our youth and the great memories we formed with them.

Born in 1943, Uemura grew up in post-war Japan and developed an interest in playing with and constructing his own toys from a young age, partly due to the scarcity of new products available in the years following the end of World War II. He studied at the Chiba Institute of Technology and upon graduating he began his career at Sharp Corporation before eventually joining Nintendo in 1972, thanks to his relationship with Gunpei Yokoi. The two met and worked together while Yokoi was investigating Sharp's technology for use in light gun games in the early 1970s and Uemura evidently impressed Nintendo's chief designer at the time.

Primarily a toy manufacturer in those days, Nintendo's design process was naturally different to Sharp's, as Uemura told Kotaku via Matt Alt:

One of the things that surprised me when I moved from Sharp to Nintendo was that, while they didn’t have a development division, they had this kind of development warehouse full of toys, almost all of them American.

His first projects at Nintendo involved the creation of more complex electronic toys which existing staff lacked the technical know-how to design — the company had previously focused on producing hanafuda playing cards and simple toys such as Yokoi's famous Ultra Hand. As part of the newly formed R&D department, Uemura produced several light gun products such as the Laser Clay Shooting System and the original Duck Hunt (the light gun game that would eventually be reimagined for NES) before ultimately being made head of Nintendo R&D2. Yokoi's R&D1 would focus on arcade development (and later the Game & Watch handhelds) and Uemura's division would develop home consoles, beginning with the Color TV Game series. t was with these consoles that Uemura expanded his knowledge and began forming more ambitious hardware plans for a cartridge-based system. READ MORE . . . 

Ian Hetherington - The founder of Imagine Software, Psygnosis and Evolution Studios, Ian Hetherington, has died after a short illness. Hetherington was part of the team that launched PlayStation: he and the Psygnosis team directly influenced the technology that went into that first console.e. As the head of Psygnosis, he worked on major titles including Lemmings and Wipeout.  Hetherington co-founded the short-lived Imagine Software in 1982, before forming Psygnosis in 1984 alongside David Lawson and Jonathan Ellis. He stayed at the company until 1998, when he left to form Evolution Studios, another outfit based in the Liverpool area that went on to create a series of hit racing games, including WRC and MotorStorm. He left in 2007 and has since held senior roles at Realtime Worlds, Midoki and Immotion Group. He most recently appeared in a documentary marking 30 years of Lemmings. The news follows the death of fellow Psygnosis and Imagine Software founder David Lawson earlier this year. Tributes to Ian are already coming in from across the industry on social media and via email. Firesprite's Studio Art Director Lee Carus said in an email: "I really don't know where to start. He's had an impact on the entire direction of my life. If he hadn't have given that floppy haired kid from a rough estate, who dabbled in Amiga art, a chance who knows what could have happened? I wouldn't have met my partner who came up to Psygnosis on a two-week cover placement which ended up being five years. 20+ years of happy marriage later we'd later go on to have two wonderful boys who are the absolute centre of our lives. It terrifies me to think of what could have happened if Ian and I's paths hadn't crossed and I will be eternally grateful for that.  But I know this isn't a one off -- he jump started so many careers and lives. It's remarkable just how much of the UK games industry you can ultimately trace back to Ian. Some of the most senior people in the industry now, owe some part of their success to working with and learning from Ian. "So sad to hear Ian Hetherington has passed away," wrote Lucid Games' Martin Linklater. "A proper games industry legend and a lovely bloke. I had the pleasure of working with Ian on a number of occasions... at Psygnosis and then Curly Monsters. RIP Ian. Deepest condolences to his loved ones"

Miłogost Reczek - The Polish voice actor was a favorite of CD Projekt Red and was well-known for other dubbing roles in film, TV, and video games. Miłogost Reczek--known in the video game industry for his roles in Polish dubs of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077--has died at age 60. He had apparently been in treatment for cancer since 2018.  News of his passing comes from a Facebook post from Polish audiobook company Storytel. Reczek's gravitas and talent had previously landed him the dubbing roles for characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars films (originally played by Ewan MacGregor), and Talos, a side character in more recent Marvel movies (originally portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn).  A deeper search of Reczek's filmography also shows he lent his voice to the Polish dub of children's show Thomas the Tank Engine.  Polish news outlets and commentators praised Reczek's talent and contributions to the world of Polish voice acting and dubbing. "Apart from his characteristic voice, which created many unforgettable roles, Miłek also had an irreplaceable sense of humor," Storytel wrote on its Facebook page.

Sarah Ross - formerly Zynga's vice president of global communications, has died. The news was broken by GamesBeat, which spotted messages from friends and family under a status on Ross' Facebook page. Ross had been working for Zynga for almost three years, having joined from mobile developer Jam City, where she held the same position for over two years. She also previously held marketing roles at mobile games developer Backflip Studios, as well as firms such as Yahoo, TechCrunch and Flipagram.  Ross was the driving force behind Zynga's social impact campaign Play Apart Together, which encouraged people to observe social distancing guidelines during the pandemic and stay in touch by playing games with their friends.  The campaign secured support from over 40 major games companies and the World Health Organisation, and gained more than 4.7 billion consumer media impressions from around the world.  Other campaigns Ross worked on include the Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative #WordsWithHope.  In a message to GamesBeat, Zynga president Bernard Kim said: "The entire Zynga family was deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Sarah Ross. Working with Sarah was a privilege. "We were in constant awe of her ingenuity, drive and compassion. Her mind and sheer will brought to reality incredible campaigns... She always went above and beyond and put others above herself.  "Her work at Zynga was groundbreaking and we'll miss her every day." In a tweet, Kim added: "Sarah was a force of nature at work and an incredible friend. We had amazing times together and I learned so much from her." 

Douglas Thomson - former president of the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA), the organization that became The Toy Association, has died.  The Bronx-born executive joined the TMA as president in 1978 and led the organization in consumer safety and policy, public relations, and philanthropy. He was also a founder of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Toy Design Dept. Thomson died at his Savannah, GA home on Oct. 22 at the age of 97. According to The TA, Thomson’s family is encouraging donations to be made to the Dartmouth College Fund in his name.

Jerry Houle - One of the pioneers of modern brand licensing and merchandising business, and one of eight founders of the world’s first professional licensing association which evolved into LIMA (now Licensing International), passed away on October 27 at age 76.

After stints at Fisher-Price and Milton Bradley, Jerry joined Jim Henson’s Muppets in March 1977 as its first marketing person and 25th employee. The MUPPET SHOW had launched the previous fall in 103 countries. Houle founded 7 divisions for the company, including worldwide licensing. In 1984, he founded his own agency, Bliss House, Inc., whose clients included Curious George, Chaplin, Monty Python, Princess Diana, General Motors, Survivor, Babar, among many others.  He also created and taught an MBA-level course on Licensing at Babson College, and spoke widely on licensing at events around the world.  He’s survived by his wife Margaret “Peggy” Houle;  sons Jerome L. Houle IV, William Fairfield Houle and James Lowther White Houle and their families, including six grandchildren; brothers Thomas Houle and Daniel Houle; and sisters Marybeth Donovan and Maureen Wiekert.

Malcolm Rose - He enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the toy trade.  His first role in toys was with Angel Toys, which he joined in the mid 60s. He then went on to hold several senior roles in the industry; as well as his tenure at Angel Toys, Malcolm lent his expertise to Illco, Tyco-Matchbox and Mookie Toys, among others.

His last full-time role was as sales director at Mookie Toys, where, over a 10-year period, he played an instrumental part in the growth of the business and its establishment as a pre-eminent force in the outdoor toy market, both in the UK and internationally. Malcolm formally retired from Mookie in 2005, but continued to work for a number of years on a consultancy basis, firstly for Top Banana Toys and then with Kelly Richardson at Kyria. Remembering Malcolm, Andrew Moulsher of Top Banana Toys said: “Malcolm was hugely respected by both the buyers he dealt with and his co-workers. He had a reputation as a straight talker, always showing great integrity and was never afraid to give a retail buyer the benefit of his experience if he thought they were making a less than judicious buying decision. In the main, they appreciated this and respected him all the more for it. He certainly had a significant impact on my own career development, and I shall miss him enormously.”

Affectionately known as “Grumps” by his family and many of his colleagues, Malcolm is survived by his wife Sandra, children Simon and Jo and grandchildren Sophie and Sam.

Tom Morey - Boogie Board Inventor Dies at 86: 'His Simple Gift…Will Be His Joyous, Lasting, Legacy' Tom Morey, an innovator whose love of surfing inspired the best-selling Boogie Board, died on Thursday in California. Even before inventing the Boogie Board in 1971, Morey was a surfing pioneer. He created the first professional surfing contest, the Invitational Nose Riding Championships, as well as a number of surfboard innovations, including the first polypropylene fin, per the California Surf Museum.  Morey's most famous creation came about in 1971 when he cut a piece of surfboard foam in half and covered it in newspaper, reported The Washington Post.  "The first thing that happens, I feel the ocean," he previously said of the experience of his first ride to The Orange County Register. "You don't get to feel the contour of the ocean until you get on a Boogie Board." He recalled thinking at the time, "This can really be something; this thing can really be something."  The creation was originally called SNAKE — which stood for "Side, Navel, Arm, Knee and Elbow" — but Morey eventually decided on the name Boogie Board, a nod to his love of jazz, reported The Orange County Register. As for his early pricing, the initial ad in Surfer Magazine listed the boards as costing $37, a number he picked because of his age at the time, per the newspaper. "That single device introduced more people to the joy of waveriding than any other person in the world," Kempton wrote in the California Surfing Museum's tribute to Morey. "His simple gift — a design that allowed anyone from paraplegics to Pipeline pros to boogie their brains out on a wave — will be his joyous, lasting, legacy." He went on to sell the creation and its trademark to Wham O in 1977, although he did not earn much money from the deal, according to The Washington Post.

Brian Goldner on Oct. 12th, 2021. It is with deep and profound sadness that Hasbro announces the passing of beloved leader and longtime Chairman and CEO Brian D. Goldner. 

Rich Stoddart, Interim CEO, said “Since joining the Company more than two decades ago, Brian has been the heart and soul of Hasbro. As a charismatic and passionate leader in both the play and entertainment industries, Brian’s work brought joy and laughter to children and families around the world. His visionary leadership, kindness, and generosity made him beloved by the Hasbro community and everyone he touched. On behalf of the Hasbro family, we extend our deepest, heartfelt condolences to his wife, daughter, and entire family.”

Mr. Goldner, 58, joined Hasbro in 2000 and was quickly recognized as a visionary in the industry. He was appointed CEO in 2008 and became Chairman of the Board in 2015. He was instrumental in transforming the Company into a global play and entertainment leader, architecting a strategic Brand Blueprint to create the world’s best play and storytelling experiences. Through his tireless work ethic and unwavering focus, he expanded the Company beyond toys and games into television, movies, digital gaming and beyond, to ensure Hasbro’s iconic brands reached every consumer. The culmination of his pioneering strategy was the 2019 acquisition of independent entertainment studio eOne. Mr. Goldner served on the Board of Directors of ViacomCBS and was the Chair of the Compensation Committee. Mr. Goldner and his wife Barbara were passionate advocates for improving systems of care for vulnerable members of society.

Edward M. Philip, Lead Independent Director of Hasbro’s Board of Directors, said “Brian’s passing is a tremendous loss for Hasbro and the world. Brian was universally admired and respected in the industry, and throughout his over twenty years at Hasbro, his inspiring leadership and exuberance left an indelible mark on everything and everyone he touched. A mentor and friend to so many, his passion and creativity took Hasbro to new heights. Our love and thoughts are with his wife, daughter, and family during this extraordinarily sad time.”

Mikael Nermark - Longtime Starbreeze executive Mikael Nermark has passed away at age 50. Nermark served as Starbreeze Studios' CEO and president twice during his 11 years at the Payday publisher, first in 2011 and then again in 2018 following a five-year run as the company's COO. Before stepping down and CEO and president last year, Nermark oversaw much of Starbreeze's reconstruction process as it sought to recover from financial hardship and regain long-term stability. Loved ones shared word of his passing in a LinkedIn post over the weekend, prompting an outpouring of memories and kind words from colleagues and friends. "Mikael have fought against his cancer for a year, and he have fought hard. His strength under the circumstances is truly inspirational and gives us all a perspective on life," reads the post written by Avalanche Studios co-founder Christofer Sundberg and Starbreeze global marketing director Pelle Sunnerot. "He lived every day like it mattered because it does and that is something we should all take with us as we honor his memory. His laugh, his guidance to us who have worked with him, his calm, his knowledge, his humor, and his voice will be with us forever. Gone, but never forgotten."

David Watt  passed away earlier this month (Sept). Born in Ballymena in Northern Ireland in 1944, David worked for Lego from 1975 until 1999 as area sales manager in Northern Ireland, calling on independent retailers as well as some national accounts. Over his 24 years at Lego, David achieved the accolade of Top Salesman multiple times, winning the coveted Silver Lego Brick trophy with his name engraved. David will be remembered fondly by customers and colleagues alike, who describe him as full of passion and integrity for his work, with a great sense of humour. He lived for ‘the brick’ and was incredibly proud to work for Lego, taking great pride in what he achieved working for the group. Many of his customers knew him as the ‘Lego Man’.

Sir Clive Sinclair. Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died on Thursday 16th after a long illness at the age of 81. Sir Clive Sinclair's contributions to the world extend beyond gaming, so prolific were his inventions. But as games professionals and enthusiasts alike expressed their sadness at news of his passing last week, it's clear the impact he had on the industry -- especially in the UK -- was profound and a key pillar to his legacy. Best known in the gaming world for his ZX consoles -- the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum -- Sir Clive Sinclair provided the platform for many a developer to start their career. It wasn't just their capabilities, but also their affordability, with a ZX80 priced at less than £100. Sinclair believed in a future where every household was home to a computer, and his games consoles helped prove that could become a reality. Tributes have already been paid across social media, but we reached out to notable developers from the time, industry veterans familiar with his work, and other games professionals to share their thoughts on the life and legacy of Sir Clive Sinclair

Robby Kanoff, former executive vice president of sales at Galoob Toys, died Sept. 16, 2021. A toy industry veteran with legendary ties to the world of wrestling action figures has died. “We lost a real legend yesterday,” says Graham Mottram, an industry vet and current sales lead at Story Time Chess. The Philadelphia-born Kanoff began his career in the toy industry in 1978 as national sales manager at Lewis Galoob Toys. In the season three Wrestling Figures episode of The Nacelle Co.‘s The Toys That Made Us, Kanoff recalled being perhaps the youngest sales manager in the toy business at the time at age 23. His efforts to guide Galoob from an importer of toys to a maker of toys led to licensed products inspired by Universal’s The A-Team, WCW, the Spice Girls, and more alongside original brands, including Micro Machines, Baby Face Dolls, and more.  

Following his departure from Galoob, Kanoff — dubbed “Jewish Lightning” for his wrestling-inspired sales tactics — was one of the founders of The Original San Francisco Toymakers and re-acquired the license to produce WCW action figures followed by a deal with Extreme Championship Wrestling for a line of ECW toys. “Robby was a great salesman and an even better friend,” says Robert Weinberg, former executive vice president at Toys “R” Us and senior vice president of merchandising at KB Toys. For the past 20 years, Kanoff lived in Massachusetts with his partner, Josie Persichino. Kanoff was 66.

Reuben Klamer - Toy industry icon and inventor of the classic board game The Game of Life, died at home in La Jolla, CA on September 14, 2021. He was 99 and left this world reluctantly, telling a recent visitor “I don’t have a reservation!” The Game of Life was inducted into the permanent Archives of Family Life at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1981 and is second only to Monopoly in board game popularity. Produced by Hasbro, the game has been marketed in 59 countries and in 26 languages since its introduction in 1960. Although the exact number is probably much higher, it is estimated that more than 70 million Games of Life have been sold to date. (The Japanese edition, called Jinsei, has been the best-selling game in that country for more than 50 years.) Mr. Klamer’s colleagues, friends and neighbors described him as warm, kind, generous, intensely curious and a fabulous storyteller. He was known for his crackling sense of humor, his sartorial splendor (he had a huge collection of hats and dressed up in costume every Halloween), the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and showing up to parties with the Pink Panther. Reuben loved good food, from the finest oysters to milkshakes, and would go anywhere for a great hot dog. He adored chocolate in any form,” one said, reminiscing that among Mr. Klamer’s favorite places was Serendipity 3 in New York City. “His joy was contagious and he was always bursting with ideas — an eight-year-old boy in a grown man’s body,” another added. “I think Reuben’s greatest accomplishment was how he managed to stay relevant to the very end,” said George Burtch, retired Vice President of Marketing for Hasbro and a longtime friend. “He was the most cheerfully persistent person I’ve ever met and he inspired so many, in and out of the toy industry.” Mr. Klamer had a gift for anticipating and capitalizing on trends, a talent for developing consumer "must-haves" across a broad spectrum of categories and the ability to work in a variety of media. While the bulk of his most successful products were in the field of toys and games, he also held design, development and invention credits in industries as diverse as textiles, plastics, aviation, publishing, music, television and film. Among his approximately 200 other toy credits are the classic Fisher-Price Preschool Trainer Skates, on the market for nearly 35 years; the Art Linkletter Hoop; Gaylord the Walking Dog (Ideal); Moon Rocks (Hasbro); Dolly Darlings (Hasbro); Erector-Constructor Sets (A.C. Gilbert), and Busy Blocks and Zoo-It-Yourself (Tupperware). Read More...

Adele Alessi - Her long-time colleague Duccio Abolaffio (CEO Diaframma) told Toy World: “Adele’s career at Diaframma spanned over 30 years. Through the good and the bad, her presence was constant. Even during Diaframma’s most difficult years, she decided to stay on without pay. She single-handedly built the company into the international business that it is today. She loved her work – selling was always fun for her. Even more so being told no, that just made her go at it even harder. Adele was at every single toy fair for over 30 years. She seemed to own every room she walked into and had the rare gift of capturing the attention of anyone she spoke to. She was the heart and soul of the party; those who partied with her will definitely agree. Adele was an inspiration – as an individual, as a wife and mother, and as a colleague. The kind words from people from the industry have just underlined how much she will be missed, and how vividly people remember her. She was filled with a voracious love of life. That she has been taken from us too soon can’t be put into words. Some people may not know that she had been battling with cancer for a while, but like everything else in her life, she faced it head on. She was always positive and enthusiastic, and never let go of these qualities until the very end. She taught all of the people who worked with her a lesson that she embodied most of all: ‘Leave your mark, always’. Rest in peace dear Adele.”

Seeing the news on LinkedIn and Facebook, many people posted heartfelt comments, including Rubies’ head of licensing Tracey Devine-Tyley, who said: “Today the toy industry lost a very special lady. Adele welcomed me into her home on several occasions and showed me the sights of Florence on the back of her scooter – an experience I will never forget. She was one of the most graceful, fun, elegant ladies I have had the privilege to know. She lit up a room in whatever country we were fortunate in the industry to find ourselves in. She was lucky enough to see her daughter compete in the Tokyo Olympics but she leaves AnnaChiara and Matteo behind. Rest in peace Adele. You will be greatly missed.”

Don Poynter, Novelty toy inventor never lacked for ideas, dies at 96 on August 13, 2021. Donald B. Poynter was a difficult man to sum up. He was an entertainer, an inventor, an entrepreneur. Creative and bold with an endless stream of ideas. Local folks long remembered his days as a theatrical drum major at the University of Cincinnati, where he twirled multiple batons while on stilts, a tightwire or a unicycle. Then he built a career inventing novelty toys and gadgets – some of them rather risqué, like the Go Go Girl Drink Mixer – that were featured on Johnny Carson and David Letterman. That made it difficult for his daughter to tell the nuns at school what her father did for a living. “I went home and asked my mom,” Molly Poynter Maundrell recalled. “She said, ‘Just say he’s self-employed.’”  “I’ve had a fascinating life,” Poynter said in a 2019 Cincinnati Magazine article. One filled with accomplishments in a wide range of areas, from business to show business, and a number of celebrity encounters along the way. Near the end, a social worker called his daughter, concerned that the tales he told were hallucinations. “No,” Molly assured her, “they’re all true.”  An industrious lad, Poynter built his own toys growing up. In 1937, he became the youngest member of the Puppeteers of America. While attending Western Hills High School, he was a lead actor on “Father Flanagan’s Boys Town” radio show on WLW and later on NBC. He also performed on air with Doris Day, Maureen O’Hara, Rosemary Clooney and Clarence Nash (the voice of Donald Duck), and played pool in Cheviot with Andy Williams. Mostly self-taught, he entertained as a baton twirler, ventriloquist and magician while in the army during World War II and to help pay for college. His stint as the legendary UC drum major brought him to the attention of Abe Saperstein, the promoter of the Harlem Globetrotters, who hired Poynter to perform during halftime shows twirling batons, machetes and flaming torches. He spent three summers traveling the world with the team and performing for royalty. In 1951, the Globetrotters played at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin and Jesse Owens ran a lap where he had won four gold medals in front of Hitler. Poynter was Owens’ roommate for a few days. In 1953, Poynter made and performed puppets for Jon Arthur’s children’s show “No School Today” with Big Jon and Sparkie on WCPO. He also wrote a stage show, “Midnight at Eight,” a dramatization of classic horror and suspense stories that starred Basil Rathbone. Poynter started his own Poynter Products Inc., in 1954 to manufacture and sell the wacky novelty items he created. He ran the mail-order business from his house in Hyde Park. His first toys, Play Logs, were three-foot-long Lincoln logs. He also worked with Sive Advertising in Cincinnati and directed the first commercial for Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven, featuring his daughter Molly. “It was all funny,” Maundrell said about growing up with her father’s novelty business. “I was so intrigued with how he could come up with a lot of these things, the techniques he used. It was wonderful. It was probably the closest to a genius that I would come to.” Poynter designed the toys himself, molded the clay and built the mechanisms, then took them to Japan to have them manufactured.

One of his most successful products was the Little Black Box. You flip the switch and the gears turned inside as a hand reached out to pull the switch. The toy existed solely to turn itself off. Some of his popular items were the Matchbox Steer-and-Go, which allowed kids to steer a toy car on a moving landscape, the Executive Waste Basket Ball backboard, a “Little Shop of Horrors” fly-trap bank and the first talking toilet.

Poynter pitched the idea of paper dry-cleaning bags printed with dresses from Disney characters that kids could then use as costumes. Walt Disney called it “the best promotion I have ever seen,” Poynter said. Another character toy didn’t fare as well. Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, sued Poynter over his Dr. Seuss’s Merry Menagerie figures in 1968. Poynter then changed the packaging to say they were “based on” drawings Dr. Seuss had done for a magazine early in his career and Poynter prevailed in court. “Almost everything I’ve ever done is either making someone laugh or giving them pleasure, and if I didn’t, I’d be out of business,” Poynter said in an 2015 interview.

Philip Goodall,  The well-known independent retailer and former chairman of the BATR has passed away.  Philip was born in Ashburton, Devon in 1930. It was in the summer of 1940, watching RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes engaged in ariel dogfights with the Luftwaffe for the Battle of Britain, that his interest in flying was sparked. He completed his National Service in the RAF and decided to stay and train as a pilot, eventually joining Bomber Command. During his 25-year career in the RAF, he flew a wide range of planes which included co-piloting a Canberra in the first raid on the Suez Canal and the Vulcan, often with Nuclear armed missiles. The last jet plane he flew was Concorde, prior to it going into service. In 1975 he took retirement from the RAF. In the same year he and his wife Helen purchased an investment property in Thame which had been a family run cycle business. They were persuaded not to close the cycle shop and decided to run it themselves. At the same time, Helen came up with the idea of introducing toys and The Pied Pedaller was born. Toys quickly outperformed cycles and after 18 months, the store moved to a renovated former town cinema with two floors. Originally, the first floor was used for storage, but within five or six years both floors were retail space and with over 5000 sq ft, the Pied Pedaller was one of the largest independent toy shops in the country. Supported by the advice of experienced toy people, such as Paul Caspari of Robenau Toys, the Pied Pedaller joined the Andover based toy buying group, Concorde. Philip was a director of the group for several years before leaving to join Toymaster for a few years, before switching to Youngsters, with whom the business stayed.

Philip also joined the committee of the National Association of Toy Retailers (NATR), now the BATR, for which he was chairmen for five years.

According to Philip’s son Mark: “This was a particularly challenging time for the toy industry and the independent sector in particular, and Philip took his position as chair very seriously. It would be fair to say that he had a significant impact how the association was structured and succeeded over the following decades.” Philip’s chairman’s speech at the annual BATR Toy Fair dinner was always a not to be missed occasion, and often controversial. He also took great pleasure in writing a monthly article in the toy trade press for several years. In 1995, the business moved into outlet retailing, opening in Bicester Village and then rolling out into a dozen other outlet centres across southern England and Wales, under the Toyzone Banner. Philip retired from the business in 2004 and in the following years authored a book, titled ‘My target was Leningrad’, covering his years in the RAF and the Cold War strategy. 

Stuart Crawford  Toy World is sad to report that toy industry veteran Stuart passed away last week after a long illness. It is with great sadness that MV Sports and Leisure reports that the popular industry figure Stuart Crawford passed away on Thursday 19th August, aged 69, after a prolonged and debilitating illness. Stuart retired from MV in 2019 after 22 years with the company, having worked in the toy industry for over 40 years. After training at Nestle, Stuart’s first role in toys was in 1976 with Burbank Toys, then onto Acamas Toys in 1981, Pikit Toys in 1987, PMS in 1992 and MV in 1997. Stuart worked with all the major and independent retailers both past and present and was a champion of the independent retail trade in particular. He was perhaps best known for his role of national account controller at MV Sports. Speaking on behalf of MV, joint managing director Phil Ratcliffe said: “A larger than life character who wore his heart on his sleeve; nobody had a bad word to say about Stuart. Ever popular and widely respected, Stuart was always an honourable and trustworthy ambassador for the company.” “He was loyal to both the wider toy industry and MV, demonstrating  unwavering support to customers, agents, directors and staff,” added Phil. “Our thoughts are with his wife Marie and family. He will be very sadly missed; Stuart was such a lovely person and will be fondly remembered by everyone here.”

His contribution to the industry was recognised with a BTHA Golden Teddy Award in 2018.

Maki Kaji - Maki Kaji, the Japanese man known as the "Godfather of Sudoku", has died at the age of 69. Kaji gave the number puzzle its name after publishing it in his magazine Nikoli in the 1980s. Since then the popular game - involving placing the numbers 1 to 9 in each row, column and square of a 9 by 9 grid - has spread around the globe. Tournaments take place across the world and it is estimated that millions play versions of the game each day.

Russell Dever, the vivacious and engaging founder of licensing agency, Those Licensing People, passed away on 11th August aged 62, having sadly taken his own life after a long battle with depression. Renowned for his passion in children’s entertainment and content, Russell’s affection for the genre led him to found the Leeds-based licensing agency in 2013. Over the last decade, his client portfolio has represented some of the world’s best-loved, classic children’s brands, which Russell rejuvenated with his boundless energy and enthusiasm for the industry he embraced. Clients he has represented include Sooty, The Magic Roundabout, Roobard & Custard, and The Little Prince. Russell’s personality shone at industry trade shows and events where he was a regular exhibitor and sponsor, with an unwavering support for the licensing community and those within it who became his friends, not just clients or contacts. Alongside his licensing business, Russell was also respected in the children’s broadcast industry, having created and produced a number of children’s TV series, including hit show Little Monsters. It was his success in children’s entertainment which led the creative entrepreneur to expand his career into the licensing industry, about which he became so passionate. At the time of his passing, Russell was working on several production projects to be showcased at upcoming trade shows. In 2017, his youngest daughter, Leah Dever, joined the business and will continue her father’s work with its existing clients.

Bill Burke - The licensing stalwart was known for his creative spark and love of sharing his extensive knowledge with interns. Bill Burke, a long-time licensing executive who joined Licensing International this year as SVP Marketing and Communications, passed away suddenly at his home on 9th August aged 55. Prior to joining Licensing International, Bill was SVP Marketing for CBS Consumer Products, where he led Global Marketing (including Retail), International Licensing, and Licensing Operations for such iconic brands as Star Trek. Before that, he held senior positions with such companies as HIT Entertainment, Sesame Workshop and Foot Locker. “Bill was already a beloved and admired person within the industry when he joined the Licensing International team in February,” said Maura Regan, president of Licensing international. “In his brief period with us, and for those who hadn’t the pleasure of working with him previously, he quickly became a friend, creative spark and trusted sounding board for everyone on staff. It’s a measure of the man that he particularly enjoyed mentoring our interns, making sure that they got as much out of us as we got out of them. We will miss him personally and professionally.” He is survived by his wife Patty, daughter Erin and son Ryan.

Jack Hirsch, founding U.S. president of VTech Electronics North America. Hirsch began his career with Jewel Companies as a buyer and merchandiser in the 1950s and then with Mattel handling sales in the early 1970s. He also founded Waddingtons House of Games in the U.S. and worked as a representative of VTech toys before making the transition to the company’s founding president in the U.S. He served as president until 1991, when he moved into the role of Chairman of the Board. He remained actively involved in daily business activities for many years, before transitioning to an advisor role. “We were incredibly sad to learn of Jack Hirsch’s passing,” said Andy Keimach, president of VTech Electronics North America. “As VTech Electronics North America’s founding president in the U.S., Jack was a pioneer of electronic learning products with a lifetime of dedication to the toy industry. His contributions will never be forgotten as his legacy lives on through the company and resonates throughout the toy industry.”

John P. McMeel. Newspaper Syndicator With a Difference, Dies at 85. He and his business partner started in a basement, recruited a Yale student cartoonist named Garry Trudeau, and built the largest company of its kind. John McMeel, a founder of what began as a basement operation in a rented ranch house in Kansas — with a mail drop on Fifth Avenue — and grew into the largest newspaper syndication company in the world, died on July 7 at his home in Kansas City, Mo. Mr. McMeel and Jim Andrews were holding day jobs in the late 1960s — Mr. McMeel as a salesman for Hall, a newspaper syndication company in New York City; Mr. Andrews as managing editor of The National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City — but they were already moonlighting as the syndication moguls they would one day become. Before their company had any clients, it had a name, Universal Press Syndicate, which they chose because it sounded grown-up and corporate and as if it had been around forever. Mr. Andrews gave himself a pseudonym, John Kennedy, for the president he had idolized. Mr. Andrews, a cerebral former Roman Catholic seminarian living in Leawood, Kan., trawled for content creators like Garry Trudeau, whom he found in the pages of The Yale Daily News. (Mr. Trudeau was a Yale junior writing a strip called “Bull Tales” about a college quarterback named B.D. — the character who became the world-weary warrior in Mr. Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” — and the partners had to wait for him to graduate, and for the threat of the military draft to pass, before signing him up.) Mr. McMeel, a waggish and charming law school dropout, was the salesman. 

William E. “Bill” Celeste - Bill was employed in the Purchasing Dept. of Western Publishing for 28 years then became Vice President of Purchasing at Patch Products in Beloit for 16 years, retiring in 2011. Many people have lost their phone friend and entertaining storyteller! William E. “Bill” Celeste, age 73, passed away peacefully Sunday evening, July 18, 2021, at his residence after a year long struggle with cancer.

Peter Lockey The director and co-founder of The Puppet Company, Peter Lockey, passed away on 1st July following a short battle with a brain tumour. Toy World is sad to report that Peter Lockey has passed away just shy of his 64th birthday. His son Sam, sales director at The Puppet Company, which this month marks its 20th anniversary, told Toy World the story of how his father came to be in the toy trade. “Previously a teacher, like my mum (Sue, co-founder), dad went into working for the family luggage business, after which he partnered with his father, Eric – who is also very creative – to make pine furniture.”

Willi Zapf The Zapf Creation team has shared the news that its former owner Willi Zapf passed away on 30th June at the age of 83. In 1958, Willi and Brigitte Zapf took over the management of the Max Zapf doll factory. Under the new name of Zapf Puppen-und Spielwarenfabrik, Willi and Brigitte Zapf launched Baby born in 1991. He sold the company in 1992, but continued to lead it through success, growth, and innovation, until his retirement in 1997. With passion and determination, he led the company to become one of the leading manufacturers of play and functional dolls, and Baby born grew into one of the best-selling products the doll sector has ever seen.” Andrew Laughton, who headed up Zapf UK for many years, told Toy World: “Willi was a true gentleman. I would not have even entered the toy industry without his support and belief. A good friend of my father, together they built the Max Zapf business in the UK until he sold it over 20 years ago. I’ll be forever grateful to Willi and the entire Zapf family for their friendship and the opportunity they gave my family. His son Stefan still works at Zapf, heading up IT, so the family connection to the brand still remains. It’s poignant that 2021 is the 30th anniversary of Baby born – the brand transformed the large doll business worldwide, and it was Willi who saw the concept and believed in it from the start.”

Ora Coster - We lost one of the greats this week -  Ora Coster. She and her husband Theo were the brilliant leaders of Theora Design. They were celebrities in the inventing world and dear friends of mine. Pictured here are Ora and Theo with their sons Boaz and Gideon at the TAGIEs in 2012, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement. Our hearts are heavy, but we are richer for knowing Ora and all the wonderful playthings she left behind. I am gathering stories, memories and tributes to Ora (and Theo) for a story. Please send me yours to mary@chitag.com

Andrew Hackard - Line Editor of the Munchkin game line for the past 12+ years, and freelance editor who edited several of Wil Wheaton’s books, among other projects, passed away on June 17 from brain cancer.  He was 50 years old.  Hackard also worked as a freelance editor, editing several of actor Wil Wheaton’s books, and had a previous four-year stint at Steve Jackson as an editor and Managing Editor. In his role as Munchkin line editor, Hackard developed many of the Munchkin line extensions, including licensed versions.  

Michael NunnMichael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield and chairman of White Rose Toys buying group. Toy World is sad to report that Michael Nunn has passed away peacefully, aged 93 . Michael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield. Edwin Redgate opened the first store in Fargate in 1857, selling furs and sewing machines. From 1890 onwards ,Redgates sold fur pram covers and around this time, the first wheeled toys were introduced. The reputation of Redgates grew rapidly in the 1960s, when it became known in the trade as one of the best toy shops outside of London, often referred to as “the Hamleys of the North.” Michael worked in the business from 1948 to 1986, and was a key figure in the store’s move to its most-remembered location at Furnival Gate in the mid-1970s. In 1975, Redgates reached a milestone £1m turnover, which was a significant achievement at the time.

Having celebrated the company’s 125th birthday in 1982, Michael sold the business several years later to Zodiac Toys, which continued to run it for two years before it finally closed.  During his career, Michael travelled frequently to Nuremberg, where he originally met doll manufacturer Hans Gotz and started the agency agreement which still lasts to this day. The business has been run for many years by Michael’s son Antony, who married Hans’ daughter Silke Gotz. Michael’s grandson Patrick also works in the toy business, carrying on the family tradition.

Michael was chairman of White Rose Toys, a buying group consisting of 19 retailers which eventually became one of the founding cornerstones of Toymaster. He was also an active member of the Fence Club.

M. RICHARD ROBINSON, JR.  Scholastic Corporation Chairman and CEO, who had a profound influence on geek culture, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, the company announced.  He was 84, but had been in excellent health and active in running the company, as he had for nearly 50 years, the company said. In his roles as President since 1974, CEO since 1975, and Chairman since 1982, Robinson built Scholastic into the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, with $1.6 billion in annual sales. Robinson made a momentous decision in 2004, when Scholastic entered the kids graphic novel business with its new Graphix imprint (see "Scholastic to Launch Graphic Novel Line").  With Scholastic leading the way, kids graphic novels became the largest part of the graphic novel business, bigger than manga, superheroes, or creator-owned graphic novels.  Big hits have included the Amulet and Bone series, adaptations of Babysitters Club, the work of Raina Telgemeier, and Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man. 

George R. Ditomassi, former Milton Bradley chairman and Hasbro executive, died on May 31 at the age of 86, it was reported by MassLive.

Ditomassi spent more than 40 years at Milton Bradley — both before and after it was acquired by Hasbro, Inc. in 1984 — where he worked to bring worldwide recognition to game brands including Candy Land, Life, and Chutes and Ladders. According to his obituary, Ditomassi’s career at Milton Bradley began when he joined the company as a production trainee in 1960. In 1970, he became Vice President of Milton Bradley and General Manager of the Whiting Division. In 1982, Ditomassi was elected to Milton Bradley’s Board of Directors, and in 1985 was promoted to President of Milton Bradley. In 1990, he was named Chairman of Milton Bradley and Chief Operating Officer, Games and International, at Hasbro, Inc. Between 1996 and 1997 he served as President of Hasbro International.

John Wilson. John Wilson, the founder of renowned text adventure game publisher Zenobi Software, has passed away. A family member shared the news on social media, prompting an outpouring of tributes from those who knew Wilson. Also known as the 'Rochdale Balrog' because of his ties to the Greater Manchester town, Wilson turned Zenobi into a full-time venture in 1986to help produce and publish adventure games for a range of systems including the ZX Spectrum and the Atari ST.

Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Second Life creator and developer Linden Lab, has passed away. The Linden Lab team shared the news on the Second Life community forum, and praised Altberg for ushering in a culture of "profound openness and transparency" during his tenure. Altberg was appointed CEO of Linden Lab in February 2014, and prior to that worked at a range of high-profile technology companies including BranchOut, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.

Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, died on May 23rd aged 91. A statement issued by the family read: “In the light of the moon, holding on to a good star, a painter is now travelling across the night sky.” Carle’s most famous book published in 1969 tells the story of a caterpillar with a giant appetite and has sold more than 50 million copies around the world and translated in 62 languages. His family said Eric Carle had died in Northampton, Massachusetts, from kidney failure. 

Michael LovelandMichael spent his whole career in the toy business until his retirement a few years ago, notably with Bandai, where he played a pivotal role in the formation of the UK operation back in 1982. Tasked by the Japanese parent company to set up a UK subsidiary, Michael and his brother Nigel successfully established the operation with its first UK office in Guildford. Michael went on to become Bandai’s European marketing director, and was part of the team that first brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the UK and European markets, having brokered a deal with Playmates Toys. Michael was also instrumental in Bandai becoming the original distributor of the Nintendo range of electronic and video games. Michael was also involved with both the British Toy and Hobby Association and the Toy industries of Europe throughout his career, serving as an active Board member in both organisations.

Candace Irving - She worked with Mattel in Public Relations for many years and then moved on to Warner Brothers where she worked in Licensing (thank you, Sherry Gottlieb for letting us know.)

Jon Seisa (from Jon's brother) It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our brother Jon Seisa of Long Beach, Calif.  Jon passed away on April 16, 2021 at the age of 65.  In early childhood you could see that Jon was no ordinary child. As kids we would set up the garage to look like a doctor’s office. We got bed sheets and draped them to cover dad’s work bench and walls.  We would set up this hospital bed and put all kinds of strange things underneath the bed.  Jon portrayed the “Mad Doctor”, while his brother, Rick, was the terrified patient. We’d invite the neighborhood kids to come watch the performance. It was hilarious and amusing to watch the neighborhood kids’ reactions, seeing Jon pulling out work tools, toys and all kinds of other different objects from his brother’s stomach. The neighborhood kids were scared, they thought it was REAL.  What a BLAST it was! He was an animated character, hence his path was predestined.  Jon was a gifted artist, illustrator and designer with a colorful and animated personality.  In 1973 he attended Santa Ana College.  While there he designed a large aquatic theme park, Magic Marina for an environmental design thesis.  From 1976-1983 he was the Lead Art Director for Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, CA.  While there, he worked with such renowned Disney artists and designers as Ward Kimball, Ken Anderson and Hollywood art director Harper Goff.  In 1985 he took his many talents to Mattel, Inc. and helped create and launch some of their toy and doll product lines, including the Barbie Classique Collection.  After seven years with Mattel, Inc., he then decided to venture out on his own as an independent Freelance Art Director. Jon is survived by his brother Rick and sister Debbie, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.  He will be deeply missed and will always live in our hearts.  (Thank you Marcia Reece for letting us know.)

Richard Halliwell. Richard Halliwell, who co-created Warhammer Fantasy with Rick Priestley, Bryan Ansell, and Jervis Johnson for Games Workshop in its earliest days, has passed away, according to a Tweet by colleague Graeme Davis. In addition to co-creating the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy, Halliwell continued to develop the game in the 1980s, ultimately working on three editions.  He also co-designed Dark Future, an apocalyptic car racing game in 1988, and designed two games based on 2000 AD comics: Rogue Trooper and Block Mania.

John Paul Leon. Well-known Marvel Comics and DC Comics comic book artist John Paul Leon passed away Sunday after a 14-year battle with cancer, according to a GoFundMe page posted by his studio-mates, Tommy Lee Edwards and Bernard Change.  He was 49. Leon began his professional career with a series of illustrations for Dragon and Dungeon magazines, while he was still a teenager.  While attending School of Visual Arts in New York, he drew the DC Comics/Milestone title, Static.

Kevin James Reeder, 64, of Champaign, IL died Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at home.  Kevin was proud to be a design educator and product designer. As a design educator, he was a professor at Stanford, Ohio State and Georgia Tech, finishing his career at the University of Illinois. He was the first professor to ever achieve tenure at Georgia Tech’s Industrial Design Department and for several years was ranked as a top design educator in the United States. As a product designer, he specialized in toy design and children’s anthropometrics, creating products for Discovery, Mattel and others. He holds several patents and his work is featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Peter Woods Toy World is sad to report that former Fence Club chairman and long time toy industry member Peter Woods passed away on 10th April. Peter died at home, surrounded by his family. He had suffered with declining health for the last nine months, and is survived by his wife Barbara and his three sons. The toy and licensing industries formed the backbone of Peter’s working life. From joining Disney in 1953, after working for both Warner Bros. and Republic Pictures, his career advanced through Ideal Toys, Western Publishing and Dekker, after which he worked on a freelance basis. Peter was chairman of the Fence Club in 1980, and is probably most remembered for setting up the annual golf tournament in 1979 in memory of Teddy Simmonds, who he knew well. At Disney, Peter’s boss, Eddie Davis, was one of the original members of the Fence Club, who founded the organisation with Teddy in 1960.

Terry Stephens Popular toy stalwart has passed away at the age of 85. Terry spent many years in the toy retail business, where he rose to become a director of C.T.S., Upper Thames Wholesalers and retail buying group Youngsters. Later in his career, Terry switched to the other side of the fence, where he spent his twilight toy trade years working on the sales side for Gibsons Games.

Bill Gamson, Sociologist and Inventor of Games, Dies at 87. He created a game of simulated baseball that was a precursor to today’s fantasy sports. As a professor, he devised a role-playing game to help students address societal problems.  Mr. Gamson, an eminent sociologist who explored the structure of social movements and whose childhood love of games led him to create one that became an inspiration for the fantasy sports industry, died on March 23 at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 87. The cause was sarcoma, a type of cancer, his son, Joshua, said.

Barry Walker  - owner of Conways toy stores and a former member, director and chairman of the Toymaster buying group, sadly passed away on Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer.

RYU ASADAOne of the most prolific Hot Wheels designers of the past 20 years has taken his final lap.

Ryu Asada joined Mattel in 2004 as a designer on the Matchbox brand before making his way to the Hot Wheels Team. Over the course of his 17-year career, Asada designed dozens of 1:64-scale die-cast vehicles for the $1 Hot Wheels mainline assortment, most recently serving as designer project lead. “Ryu courageously battled Stage IV colorectal cancer for four and a half years. Even throughout extensive surgeries and chemotherapies, he stayed positive and continued doing what he loved to do — designing Hot Wheels and sharing his passion for cars with the world. He had a strong will and fought until the end. He took his final lap at the hospital on March 23rd from complications of the cancer. His co-driver in life, Hazel Diaz Asada, whom he met at a drawing class at the University of Oregon 21 years ago, was, like always, by his side.

Gerry Crown - Founder of Crown & Andrews (Australia), an Entrepreneur, Bon Vivant, Champion Rally Driver, Serious Golfer, Loving Husband and Father and a real English Gentleman passed away March 12th, 2021 peacefully in his sleep. A beloved member of our toy & game industry family, we are very happy to have captured him in a video conversation with Adi Golad last fall. Many of his friends came together virtually from around the world to pay tribute: Gerry Crown... the Kingdom of the Heart. 

Peter A. Flihan, Jr., Peter started as a buyer at B.Altman & Co, Buyer for Child World, Commonwealth Toy and then seeing a niche in that market, he and Linda Hejduk started their own stuffed toy manufacturer, Westcliff Limited. His son Peter joined them soon after, where they enjoyed more than a dozen years in business, travelling extensively to South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia and China.

Frank Thorne - He was 90 at the time of his death on March 7. Thorne started working in comics in 1948(!), but was best known for his work on Red Sonja, a character he started drawing in 1976, at a time when the character was being developed in the Robert E. Howard Conan universe by Barry Windsor-Smith and writer Roy Thomas.  Thorne provided most of the art for the Red Sonja solo series, which ran from 1977-1979. Thorne also created some of his own characters, including Ghita of Alizarr in an original graphic novel, Lann in Heavy Metal, Danger Rangerette in National Lampoon, and others. Thorne worked for Standard Comics and DC in addition to Marvel; did newspaper strips, including Perry Mason; wrote a number of books for Fantagraphics; and did magazine illustration work for Playboy, Hustler, High Times, and Vanity Fair.

Art Janis - It is with profound sadness the WowWee family announces passing of their Executive Vice President of Sales and dear friend Art Janis. An amazing friend to the Toy Industry, his warmth and good nature was felt by anyone and everyone he touched. The WowWee Family would like to share the following.

Dear Artie,

It has been an honor to have you in our lives. You were there from the very beginning, always positive, always smiling, always honest, always giving it your all….one of the “goodest” souls we have ever encountered.  Your loyalty to anyone you called friend was unwavering, you have always been our shining example of what it means to be decent, caring and most of all real.   We have so many loving memories of how you helped build and touch all our lives, including the succession of WowWee itself with the large fingerprint you have left both generationally on our family and everyone within our organization. We suspect the reason why your heart gave out is because you have given it to so many of us - it is the reason why you will never ever be out of our thoughts and out of our lives.  We know how phobic you were to being nothing less than the vibrant, never better attitude you always brought with you everywhere you went, and we take some comfort knowing that you would never want to exist without being able to operate at full capacity…. which is motoring through an airport while picking up dessert and a Coke, phone in hand watching the Yankees. Please know that you will be severely missed and never forgotten. 

Rest in peace our dear friend, uncle to the kids, loved by everyone at Wow Wee especially your HK brothers and sisters (Mark Ng, Fion, Gloria, Anita, Steven to name a few) and most of all your beautiful wife, Marina.

With much love always,

Your WowWee family

David Gold - Dave was with Ideal, Mattel, Spellbound Dolls and Just Play Toys. 

Darrell BurgeToy World is sad to report the passing of Hornby's Darrell Burge, well known for working extensively on the Airfix brand, who died suddenly on February 10th.  CEO of Hornby, Lyndon Davies, described the news as ‘very sad and very sudden’. He commented: “Darrell had Airfix running through his veins, working at Humbrol in Hull before he joined Hornby in Margate in 2006. Working with both the Airfix and the Humbrol brands, he was highly respected throughout the industry. He was full of fun and energy, many would have met with him at shows and events across the country. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Jane, his children Emily, Martin and Gavin and his granddaughter, Oriana.”

Darrell enjoyed a long and successful career at Hornby. As product manager at Airfix, he oversaw the revitalisation of Airfix products and the brand over the last decade and was a popular member of the Hornby team. His former colleagues have been quick to share their fond memories of working alongside Darrell over the years.

Geoff Hall of Geoff's Toys Toy World is sad to report that independent toy shop owner Geoff Hall passed away on 6th February at the age of 89 after a short illness.  Geoff made the move from running a newsagent to opening toyshops in the early 1970s, with the launch of the first branch of Geoff’s Toys in Coalville, Leicester, followed by two further shops in partnership with his wife and children. Having joined Toymaster in the 1990s to get better trading terms, Geoff became a longstanding and keen member of the group. He was still a member when the business ceased trading in 2018, after a successful 50 years. Geoff’s son Nick told Toy World that Geoff loved buying toys and was well respected by visiting reps and agents, although his formidable determination to get the best deal was something they came to be cautious about when calling.

Robert A. Altman, the co-founder of video game company ZeniMax Media, which published top franchises including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, has died. His cause of death was not immediately clear. Altman co-founded the Maryland-based ZeniMax Media in 1986, ultimately becoming one of the video game industry's biggest publishers. In 2009, ZeniMax acquired id Software, famously known for creating classic games such as Doom and Wolfenstein. Last September, Microsoft acquired ZeniMax in a deal worth $7.5 billion. Altman was married to "Wonder Woman" star Lynda Carter. They had two children together, James Altman, 33, and Jessica Altman, 27.

Loretta Whitfield, co-creator of Black Baby Whitney doll, As a District of Columbia Public Schools and Howard University graduate, Loretta Whitfield, who died on Dec. 27 at the age of 79, knew the value of representation.  Whitfield and her husband Melvin Whitfield established Lomel Enterprises- a combination of the beginning of their first names- as a means of offering toys to Black children that looked like them, and with research and hard work the baby Whitney doll was born.  “Loretta [and] Melvin thought that there was a need to fill a gap that left children of color without positive images.  They spent seven years researching and developing Baby Whitney, a Black doll. The Whitfields even hired an African art historian to design the doll’s face, which is based on a fertility doll in West Africa,”  according to an obituary submitted to the AFRO.

The Baby Whitney doll was groundbreaking and featured as a toy to look out for in several publications, including the LA Times, Ebony and a 1987 New York Times article on the Black doll debate.

Kelvyn Gardner. a well known and much loved figure in the licensing community; his wife Michelle shared the sad news on LinkedIn yesterday.

Kelvyn passed away yesterday morning (26th January). Michelle wrote: “As I am typing this I just cannot tell you how we feel, we are at a loss… It was Kelvyns 66th birthday on the 22nd of January 2021 and was going to be our big wedding anniversary; 40 years. We had joked that he wouldn’t know one end of a ruby if it bit him, so I think I might have got some ruby coloured Warrington gear!” Kelvyn’s career in licensing dates back to 1979, when he worked marketing Disney products for an Italian publishing company. For the next twenty years Kelvyn marketed literally hundreds of licensed products all over the world. During the 1990s, Merlin Publishing, founded by Kelvyn and three colleagues in 1989, became the fastest growing private company in the United Kingdom. Kelvyn recently “relaunched” licensing consultancy Asgard Media. He was also managing director of Licensing International UK for many years and was an active member of the Light Fund charity, serving on the committee, and recently entertained the licensing industry with his Living with Licensing podcasts.

Kim Merrill, Chief Executive Officer Insignias Global, formerly of Uproar. (The following tribute from Michele Litzky)  Kim Merrill was one of a kind. The consummate professional, account service maestro and trusted confident. We were sisters who met through our mutual client, Hasbro. She was my kind of girl From the start. We met while she sat on the floor in the back of the hasbro showroom painting a roadster for the toy parade. I joined her on the floor and a twenty plus year friendship began. I had no bigger cheerleader and few dearer friends. I told her sister today that she would have been by my side when I received my lifetime achievement award and she said Kim would have called her from the airport on the way.  RIP my friend.

Steve Lightle.  Comic artist Steve Lightle has passed away due to cardiac arrest tied to COVID-19, his wife posted on his Facebook account.  He was 61. Lightle was best known for his time on Legion of Super-Heroes, on which he followed artist Keith Giffen in 1984, and for his brief run on the relaunch of Doom Patrol beginning in 1987. He was also a cover artist for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics over the years.

Dennis Watts  Toy World is sad to report that Dennis Watts passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, following a long battle with illness. After a career in engineering design,  Dennis entered the toy industry in 1974, taking over his father Fred Watts’ toy shop in Melton Mowbray. Dennis acquired another local toy shop  in 1978  and from the two shop names, he formed the Arbon and Watts business. During the 90s and 00s, the retail stores won the Midlands region Toy Shop of the Year award on five separate occasions. In the mid 90s, Dennis created Mail Order Express – the idea behind the new operation was to work with selected supplier partners to carry entire ranges. In 1999, Mailorderexpress.com was launched online, leading to a massive expansion in the early 00s, as the company rode the wave of the initial internet boom.

Kelly Flock. Former Sony, LucasArts, and THQ executive Kelly Flock has passed away. A number of notable industry figures shared the news online, and paid tribute to Flock's leadership abilities and commitment to giving new voices a chance to shine. Flock spent decades working in the industry at a number of high-profile companies, holding several senior positions at Sony, including president and CEO of Sony Online Entertainment.

2020

Oscar Koveleski, founder of the Auto World and Kidracer brands, died Monday (December 28, 2020) at the age of 88. In 1958, Koveleski — a race car driver and scale model enthusiast — launched Auto World as a mail-order store from the basement of a home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The operation, which initially placed ads in the back of magazines, became a popular catalog business and pioneered the hobby and specialty retail space through its extensive offerings of slot-racing cars and track sets, plastic model kits, R/C cars, building supplies, and other items from brands including TYCO, Aurora, Scalextric, and more. “At that time slot cars were a mainstream toy,” says slot car evangelist Dave Kennedy, former brand manager for Hornby Hobbies’ Scalextric/Airfix lines and former North American marketing manager at Carrera of America. “They became a staple toy in every mass-market store and catalog … everyone — and I mean everyone — that is in the business now follows in Oscar’s footsteps.”

Diana Green Diana Green, long time buying director of Greens Toymaster, passed away at home on 13th December 2020 after a short illness. Toy World is sad to report that Diana Green, a popular and well respected toy industry figure, passed away peacefully on Sunday 13th December after a short illness. Diana was a well known figure in the industry since the 1970s, having worked as buying director for Greens for much of this time. Working alongside her husband Geoff, Diana selected ranges for the Snowfold buying group’s FOB import programme, which supported members ranges and margins from the 1980’s. Later, she served as a member of Toymaster’s Merchandise Committee for many years, as the Greens Toymaster chain expanded to a total of 17 stores.

Mercedeh Ward - Mercedeh Ward contributed to the toy industry she loved in a myriad of ways over the course of her 35-year career. A mechanical engineer by training, with a degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mercedeh leveraged her considerable smarts and work ethic to ensure thousands of toys reached the market to deliver happiness to children. Her amazing career spanned multiple companies (in order): Mattel, Equity Marketing, Playmates, Spin Master, MGA, Funrise, Zippity Blue, and Spin Master (again). At a time where there were few female engineers in the toy industry (and no one had yet heard of STEM), Mercedeh became the go-to product development expert for girls toys in Southern California, where executing the right aesthetic was paramount. She made major contributions to many powerhouse brands, including: Barbie, Bratz, and Amazing Amanda (first major animatronic doll). In her second stint at Spin Master, she helped drive the success of the #1 preschool brand, Paw Patrol.

Francis Spear Francis passed away peacefully on 13th December 2020.  Francis was born in the town of Fuerth, near Nuremberg, into a Jewish toy trade family. His great grandfather, Jacob Wolf Spear, started J. W. Spear & Soehne in 1878. By the time Francis was born into this close-knit family – he was the youngest of five grandchildren – the company was being managed by his grandfather Carl Spear and a great uncle. ...  

When (Francis) he joined Spear’s Games, Francis worked in a number of different departments, but his passion was for the production side of the business and he took on the role of production director, overseeing the manufacturing process. Francis became managing director of J. W. Spear and subsequently its chairman. He was respected by many in the toy trade for his honesty, loyalty and modesty. When the company was sold to Mattel in 1994, Francis purchased farmland in Hertfordshire. Read More...

Glyn Davies   Toy World is sad to report that Glyn Davies passed away in Liverpool on November 20th, after catching coronavirus. Glyn had turned 70 in July. Glyn worked in the toy trade for many years as a rep and national account executive for several toy companies, including Blue Box, Rainbow, Mondo and Fisher Price. His final role of a long and distinguished toy trade career was at Bandai. Julian Boyers, former managing director at Bandai, commented: “I was deeply saddened to hear of Glyn’s death, which happened very quickly and unexpectedly.

Jimmy Hunter, the founder of Hunter Toys, passed away on November 14th, 2020. Jimmy took on the role of BTHA Chairman from 2000-2002 and was heavily involved for many years with both Toy Fair and the BTHA’s ‘Value of Play’ initiatives. He was the champion for Total Fun, the consumer event held in the early 2000s, while he was also the brainchild behind the longstanding Golden Teddy awards. His daughter Sally Hunter, who has followed in Jimmy’s footsteps by building a long and successful career the toy trade, told Toy World: “The fact that the Golden Teddy awards are still being presented so many years later gives me goosebumps.

Simon Holdsworth, Managing Director at Thos Holdsworth & Sons Ltd, passed away on November 14th, 2020. "Many of our staff have worked alongside Simon for more than 20 years.  Words like mentor, great boss, good friend, awesome storyteller, gregarious, quick witted, dynamic, proud, demanding, knowledgeable and tireless are just some of their comments.  He is, and always will be our champion!  Our legacy for Simon is to keep the company running smoothly and exemplify the excellence that he demanded from us each and every day.  There will be many memories, and no doubt a number of stories from your time spent with Simon, perhaps encouraged by his favourite tipple of a G&T or a wee glass of Grand Marnier!  In the coming weeks, I hope that we get the chance to remember the good times and raise a glass in his honour." - Fleur Tisdale

NOTES on colleagues we lost before we publicly listed in the Bloom Report

2020

Nelson Hasson, Executive at Marx.

Georges Gareau, President of Bojeux

Jim Mariol - He designed the world’s best-selling car, Little Tikes, beloved by toddlers for 40 years - 1- 2020, for more on Jim's prolific career, here is a Smithsonian article 

Kazuhisa Hashimoto  -  Legendary Game Designer And 'Konami Code' Creator - 2-27-20 

Jens Nygaard Knudsen - inventor of the LEGO Minifigure, age 78 - 2-26-20

Allison Katzman designed the Blythe doll, age 95 - 4-3-20 

Satish Pillalamarri - Co-founder, North Star Games - 10-8-20

Lee Volpe - 10-27-20

Roger Shiffman - Co-Founder, Tiger Electronics (Furby)  - 10-3-20  Roger Shiffman was perfectly cast as the public face of a toy company, Tiger Electronics Inc., maker of Furby, Giga Pets and other hits of the 1980s and 1990s. He had a jungle of curly brown hair and a cherubic expression that prompted the Chicago Tribune to describe him as a grown-up kid. He also had an insight early in his career: Toys and electronics were merging. In 1978, Mr. Shiffman helped found Tiger in a Chicago suburb. Starting with Mickey Mouse record players, Tiger teamed up with Hong Kong partners to make hand-held electronic games, often tied to movies. Furby, a talking furball with its own language (Furbish), sent parents into a desperate chase for scarce merchandise in the late 1990s. Hasbro Inc. bought Tiger in 1998 for $335 million and kept Mr. Shiffman as president of the business for three years. He survived surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2002 and celebrated by treating family and friends to a “Grateful I’m Not Dead” trip to Disney World, where his wife, Carol Shiffman, was inducted as an honorary Mouseketeer. Three years later he helped found another company, the short-lived Zizzle Toys. Mr. Shiffman died Sept. 5 of mesothelioma at his home in Highland Park, Ill. He was 67.

Joe Ruby, the co-creator of the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, has died aged 87. August 2020. Ruby, who created the much-loved characters alongside his creative partner Ken Spears, died of natural causes in California on Wednesday. "He never stopped writing and creating, even as he aged," said his grandson Benjamin Ruby. Warner Bros' animation president, Sam Register, said Ruby "made Saturday mornings special for so many children....

Bryan Stockton - Former CEO, Mattel - 8-2-20. Stockton spent 15 years at Mattel, including serving as Chief Executive Officer from 2012 to 2015 and Chairman from 2013 to 2015. Stockton joined Mattel in 2000 as Executive Vice President of Business Planning and Development. In 2003, Stockton was named Executive Vice President of International, and he was promoted to President of International in 2007. After leaving Mattel, Bryan focused his attention on photography. What was formerly a passion project, became an award-winning career. Bryan’s work was recognized by the distinguished Graphis Photography Annual, receiving a gold in their landscape category. His images were also hand-picked to be featured in Travel & Leisure. Most recently, Bryan was retained by the prestigious Relais & Chateaux resorts to bring a fresh look and “guest” perspective to their images including food, environmental, guest accommodations and activities.

DIANNA EFFNER - The doll world lost a renowned and beloved artist Oct. 14 with the death of Dianna Effner due to cancer. Born in 1945, Effner began designing and making porcelain dolls in the late 1970s, designing for a variety of manufacturers as well as producing and finishing dolls herself. Many of her designs have been released as vinyl dolls, but she is best-known for her porcelain dolls and her work as a mentor for other artists. She and her family established Expressions in 1992 to produce doll molds for the hobby, allowing other artists to reproduce her designs in porcelain. She also founded the Doll Dreamers Guild as part of her ongoing support of aspiring artists. Her designs continue to be popular with collectors and artists today. Read more about Effner’s remarkable career as a doll artist in this 2017 feature story from DOLLS magazine 

Dave Spears of Spears Marketing. Paul David Spears, Devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, David passed away on July 13 after suffering a major stroke. Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, he received his B.A. from Evansville University and started his career as a copy writer for Sears Roebuck in Chicago. From there he moved on to marketing and spent 50 years in the toy business with Mattel, Takara and ultimately his own company. David will be remembered for his calm judgment, affability, humor, love of history, theater, music and the arts. On summer evenings he and Susan could often be found at Ravinia. In the winter you might find them at the Jazz Showcase. He both enjoyed and was frustrated by the Bears and took great pleasure from picking his Fantasy Football teams. A gentleman in every sense of that word, his family benefitted from his wisdom, decency and abiding love.  Augie the cat will sorely miss his walks with David to get the morning paper. It was a ritual they both enjoyed.

Harvey Diamond - VP of International Licensing at Mattel and then President of H. Diamond International  (June 17, 1936 - July 30, 2020)

Bernie Tenenbaum - Managing Partner of China Cat Capital and Lodestone Global, President of Children’s Leisure Products Group 

Dom Emig - Toy Salesman, Walmart  

Brian Downs - Toy Manufacturer Representative with Les Friedland Associates   

Lucky Evani - Toys ”R” Us Buyer, Toy and Video Games  

Robert Manlin President, Robert Manlin Marketing, Senior VP Sales, Larami Inc.

Alan Fine - Mattel exec heading up such functions as marketing research and strategic planning, licensing and entertainment, new business development, media planning and buying, packaging and consumer affairs. He is probably best known to us as the go-to guy for consumer research with his own company, KaleidOScope, especially for smaller toy companies. 

Ken Spears - Co-creator of the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, died at the age of 82. Spears, who created the animated characters alongside his creative partner Joe Ruby, died of complications from Lewy body dementia.

2019 

Theo Coster 

Alan Roach – May 2019

Ted Kiesewetter - Founder of International Playthings, May 2019

Jerry Welch - CEO of The Right Start, then acquired Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz, forming FAO

Jim Muntz 

Len Clark

Peter Mayhew - Star Wars’ Original Chewbacca, May 2019

Rick Loomis 8-19 A legend in the tabletop RPG industry, served as the president of the Game Manufacturers Association for years.

John Teuschler 

Beau James 

Frank Brilando, 93, designer/engineer with Schwinn Bicycles for 4 decades and a two-time cycling Olympian. Started at Schwinn in 1951 as a draftsman, helped create the Sting-Ray and first derailleur-equipped mass-produced bicycles. "My guess is you will find Frank's name on more patents than anyone other than the Shimano family," said Jay Townley, a former Schwinn executive and bike industry analyst. May 2019

Bill Smith, the recently retired president and CEO of Huffy Corp., has died. Smith was at Huffy for 25 years, including 8 years as CEO, before announcing last September that he would retire in December 2018. RIP in May 2019

2018

Jerry Robson - Tremendous Toys 8-26-18

Dominic Laurienzo 2-18 - Sr. Vice President of Design at Jakks Pacific, formerly Mattel  and ​Fisher-Price

Bill Dohrman - 2018

Abe Mor 3-18

Charles Lazarus (October 4, 1923 – March 22, 2018) Founder of Toys “R” Us, has passed away at the age of 94. The seeds for Lazarus’ vision to create a super market-like store just for toys were planted back in 1948 with his children’s furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town. Intended to cater to the post-war baby boom, over time his focus shifted solely to toys. He restructured the business in the late 1950s and, with the supermarket format, opened the first Toys “R” Us location in 1957.

By 1978, under the Toys “R” Us name (backwards R and all), his business became a public company and his vision, a reality. In the 1980s, TRU was in its prime under Lazarus’ watch, with the “Toys R Us Kid” jingle etched into every child’s brain. By 1983, TRU diversified its portfolio with the addition of Kids “R” Us clothing stores opening their doors in New Jersey and New York. By the following year, the company had both a nationwide and worldwide presence with wholly-owned locations in Canada and licensed operations in Singapore.

Lazarus stepped down in 1994 but remained a figure on the board as Chairman Emeritus. That year, he handed the reigns off to Michael Goldstein, who ran the company until 1998.

But the toy mogul was known as much within the industry for his work as he was for his giving. In 1985, Lazarus brought industry members together for a benefit gala in New York to raise money to improve the health and well-being of children. By 1992, this came to be known as the Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund, which now receives millions in donations that go to nonprofits for child health and safety. He was inducted into the Toy Association Hall of Fame in 1990 and received the National Retail Federation’s Gold Medal Award in 1995, recognizing his leadership and his role in revolutionizing the toy and juvenile product industries

Of the news of his passing, Goldstein described Lazarus as not only his mentor but as a second father to him. Goldstein says of the conversations he shared with Lazarus that the only regrets they both had are of the employees who will lose their jobs, the suppliers who will lose their best customer, and the children who will never experience Toys “R” Us. 

2017

Leonard Greenberg - The founder of Coleco.

Loren Taylor

Tom Kremer

Ralph Kaufman-President of Jaymar Specialty

ROY RAIZEN (1930 - 2017) - Scarsdale, NY. A 1948 graduate of the Salisbury School and 1952 graduate of Lafayette College. He served in U.S. Army during Korean War. Those of you who knew Roy know by his hats and tee- shirts that he was an avid sports fan -- the Giants, Yankees and Rangers were his teams. He was past President of Beach Point Club in Mamaroneck, NY and the past President and Chairman of the Board of the Mid- Westchester JCC. He began his career working at Transogram Toy Company and later became a co-owner of Effanbee Doll Corp, a successful maker of fine dolls.

Stanley Weston(April 1, 1933 – May 1, 2017) was an American inventor and licensing agent who created the G.I. Joe toy line in 1963, as well as the very concept of the action figure.[1][2][3] Weston later sold the rights to his invention, which he called "outfitted action figures", to Hasbro for just $100,000 dollars. He later created his own company, Leisure Concepts, which represented and licensed products based on the likeness of Farrah FawcettStar Wars, and Nintendo. During the 1980s, Weston oversaw the creation of the ThunderCats animated series (1985–1989), which spawned the successful ThunderCats toyline. (Wikipedia) READ MORE  . . . 

2016

Omri Rothschild

2015

Horst Brandstaetter -   founder of toy-maker Playmobil, died in June 2015. At the time of his death, Playmobil was one of the world's largest toy companies, with $700 million in sales. While now famous for its two-and-three-quarter inch figures sold in thematic, Lego-esque kits, the company's origins were distinctly less whimsical. In 1876, a Brandstaetter ancestor founded the firm in Furth, Germany?then Bavaria?as a producer of ornamental casket fittings and locks. Family members later expanded to sheet-metal piggy banks, telephones and cash registers. Horst joined the family business, then run by his two uncles, in 1952 at age 19. He pressed for the aging business to think about entering new markets. Six years later, the company brought the hula hoop to Europe. The oil crisis of the 1970s made plastic scarce, and Brandstaetter asked a top lieutenant to develop a new toy that wouldn't require much of it. Together, he and that employee dreamed up the little figurines with hollow body parts that used less plastic. They hit toy store shelves in 1974. Brandstaetter stepped down from running Playmobil in 2000. The company's sole shareholder, he continued to go to the office daily right until his death. He is survived by two children.

Seymour L. Wane - passed away on Oct. 21, 2015, at the Brighton Gardens Senior Living residence in West Orange, N.J., at the age of 91. Mr. Wane was born on June 24, 1924; graduated from New York University; entered the US Navy during World War II, and rose to the rank of lieutenant j.g., serving aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific campaign. Upon his return from service, he joined the Louis Marx Toy Co. and became vice-president of finance. The Marx Toy Co. emerged from World War II as the largest manufacturer of toys and operated three large manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania. Developing economies in Asia beckoned manufacturers to locate production within its environs, and Mr. Wane piloted the production move. In the later part of the 1960s, with no second generation interest in the business, Louis Marx considered selling the company and consummated a sale of the U.S., Hong Kong and Mexican enterprises to the Quaker Oats Company. With that accomplished, Mr. Wane continued his career as vice president of Brae Capital Corp., the financial vehicle of Louis Marx, Jr. Mr. Wane had an abiding interest in the affairs of young people, spawned by the Marx Toy Company's development of toys that taught children elemental skills. Continuing with his interest in children's education, he became president of the Millburn-Short Hills Scholastic Boosters, which raised funds for scholarship awards to qualifying Millburn High School seniors in support of their college tuition needs. Mr. Wane's wife, Cynthia, predeceased him, as did his daughter, Amy, and he is survived by his brother, Leonard, and children, Lauren Hochman, Jonathan Lowenberg, and Heather Feldman, and five grandchildren.

Isaac Heller, Co-Founder of Remco and Toymaker to a Generation. Isaac Heller got his start as a toymaker by buying up mountains of military surplus and transforming them into toys.  Isaac Heller, who died Saturday at 88, founded Remco — later based in Newark and then in Harrison, N.J. — with a cousin, Saul Robbins, in 1949. A former Navy electronics technician, Mr. Heller got his start as a toymaker by buying up mountains of military surplus and transforming it into toys that could zoom, soar or otherwise move. (The name Remco stood for “remote control.”)

“Every boy wants a Remco toy,” the company’s omnipresent television commercials intoned in a voice that carried the epochal urgency of a newsreel. In later years, after Remco began offering dolls, the tag line “... and so do girls” was appended. But its ellipses were almost palpable, so closely was the company associated with the construction of midcentury masculinity in miniature. In the 1960s and afterward, Remco was also known for its licensed products, including action figures of the Beatles, complete with combable mop-tops; the Munsters; and “Star Trek” characters. saac Heller, known as Ike, was born on July 23, 1926, in Ellenville, N.Y., at the foot of the Catskills, where his family owned a small farm. His parents, Morris Heller and the former Yetta Shapiro, Russian Jewish immigrants, had been settled there by the Jewish Agricultural (and Industrial Aid) Society, a social welfare agency. In the summer, to supplement their income, they rented out the children’s bedrooms to tourists; Ike and his siblings slept in the chicken coop. When Ike was 12 the family moved to Brooklyn, where he studied electrical engineering at Brooklyn Technical High School. He later took night classes at Cooper Union in Manhattan. From 1944 to 1946 he served in the Navy, where he repaired radar equipment along with almost anything else that came to hand. In idle moments, he built toys from spare electronics components for his shipmates to send home to their children.

After his discharge, Mr. Heller worked briefly as a toy designer before striking out on his own. As he well knew, warehouses all over New York were filled with military surplus going begging, and he visited each of them, buying up airmen’s earphones. From these, working in the basement of his brother-in-law’s upholstery shop, he built what became Remco’s first product and remained one of its best known: toy walkie-talkies.

The company’s other toys included Mighty Mike motorized trucks, the Shark remote control racecar, the Mighty Matilda aircraft carrier and the Movieland Drive-In Theater, which came with cars, a parking lot and a small projector and screen.

2014

Ralf Baer – Magnabox, Simon’s co-inventor, Dec 8, 2014

2013

Len Fuhrer83, Toy Industry leader for over 50 years. It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Leonard Fuhrer, 83 of Wellesley, MA on September 20, 2013.  Mr. Fuhrer was a leader in the global toy industry for more than 50 years.  He started his career with Simon & Schuster in 1956 after serving as a Lieutenant in US Naval Intelligence.  Mr. Fuhrer's distinguished career included executive positions at Topper Toys, Matchbox and Corgi Toys. From 1977 to 1994, Mr. Fuhrer was the President of the Toy, Hobby, Educational Group for Damon Corporation overseeing multiple companies including Estes Rockets, Arrow Industries, Hi Flyer Kites among others.  At the time of his passing, Mr. Fuhrer was the Lead Director and Chief Strategic Officer of Active Media Services, an International trading company with 14 offices worldwide.  Mr. Fuhrer also served three terms on the Board of Directors of the original Toy Manufacturer's Association of America (TMA). He is survived by his wife, Fran, son Robert , son David and daughter, Leslie and eight grandchildren. 

2011

Milton Levine – Ant Farm and founder of Uncle Milton – died January 16, 2011 at the age of 97

James Becker, (Jan. 27, 1921 - Aug. 11, 2011) Founder of Anjar. 

2010

Saul Robbins (February 16, 1922 – June 13, 2010) was an American toy manufacturer, the co-founder of Remco, with his cousin Isaac Heller. He earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University.[2] Robbins served in the US Army in the Second World War. 

In 1949, he co-founded the toy company Remco in Newark, New Jersey, with his cousin Isaac Heller.[2][3] The name was a contraction of "REMote COntrol", and its first products were children's walkie-talkies.[3] Heller had been a U.S. Navy electronics technician, and they started by buying large amounts of military surplus and "transforming it into toys that could zoom, soar or otherwise move."[4]

Until the 1960s, they only made toys for boys, and they were the first toy company to use television advertising.[3] Their toys included the Whirlybird helicopter, the Barracuda atomic submarine, the Johnny Reb cannon, the Dick Tracy wrist radio, the Screaming Mee Mee-e rifle and Mr. Kelly's Automatic Car Wash.[4] Robbins was president of the Toy Manufacturers Association of America, and of the YM-YWHA of Metrowest.[2]

Jack Friedman - (1939-2010)For years, Jack Friedman’s New York license plate read, “Thanx ET,” a public wink at the movie-related merchandise that marked his first big success in the toy industry. He went on to establish THQ Inc., a Calabasas video game maker, and in 1995, co-founded Jakks Pacific, a Malibu-based toy company that scored its first hit producing action figures for the World Wrestling Federation. Known within the company for his yo-yo skills, Friedman had a fondness for classic toys — die-cast collectible cars, metal trucks, bulldozers — and a business strategy that revolved around licensing toys and acquiring other companies. One company Jakks bought was Toymax, which made Funnoodle pool products. It also developed a line of toys with Nickelodeon and manufactures products for Disney, Hello Kitty, Cabbage Patch Kids and dozens of other well-known brands. Born in 1939 in Queens, N.Y., Friedman started his career in the 1960s as a sales representative for toy maker Norman J. Lewis Associates. Backed by Lewis, Friedman founded his first toy company, LJN, in 1970. In addition to E.T. merchandise, the firm manufactured Michael Jackson dolls. READ MORE . . . 

 

2008

Bob Sklarsky - Owner of Uneeda Doll, a company founded in 1917 by the Sklarsky family in Brooklyn, New York.

2009

Harvey Greenfield,  founder of Commonwealth Toy  - It is with profound grief that we mourn the loss of our father, Harvey Greenfield. A leader in the toy industry, one of his greatest joys was creating toys for children. While he touched the lives of many, none more so than those of his children and grandchildren to whom he was utterly devoted. His world revolved around ours, and ours around his. Everyday without him is a struggle, and the void in our hearts will be with us always. Steven, Stacey, Lisa, Jessica, Alexa, Eddie, Richard, Scott, Lisa, Jake, Casey, Emily, Corey, Anna and Sam

2005

Raymond “Ray” J. Lohr - passed on October 3, 2005. He was born on September 28, 1912, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended classes at Xavier University, and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1941. He married his wife, Vilma Treo, of Harrisburg, Pa., in 1941. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain at the close of WWII, in 1946. He received the Purple Heart. Ray was employed as a mechanical designer by Louis Marx Co. in 1935, and was retained by Louis Marx through WWII; he retired as Chief Toy Designer with 37 years of service, in 1972. His significant professional accomplishments included hundreds of mechanical patents for Louis Marx, and he was given credit for designing and conceiving the Marx Big Wheel.

2003

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003), also known as Mister Rogers, was an American television host, author, producer, and Presbyterian minister.[1] He was the creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and earned a bachelor's degree in music from Rollins College in 1951. He began his television career at NBC in New York, returning to Pittsburgh in 1953 to work for children's programming at NET (later PBS) television station WQED. He graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with a bachelor's degree in divinity in 1962. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1963. He attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development, where he began his 30-year long collaboration with child psychologist Margaret McFarland. He also helped develop the children's shows The Children's Corner (1955) and Misterogers (1963). In 1968, he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran for 33 years. The program was critically acclaimed for focusing on children's emotional and physical concerns, such as death, sibling rivalry, school enrollment, and divorce. Rogers died of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003 at age 74. His work in children's television has been widely lauded, and he received over 40 honorary degrees and several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers influenced many writers and producers of children's television shows, and his broadcasts have served as a source of comfort during tragic events, even after his death. Read More...

2002

Sid Sackson   November 6, 2002

Russ Berrie, founder of the toy company that bears his name, died suddenly on Christmas day. The cause of his death was heart failure, the company said in a statement. Berrie, 69, was the chairman and CEO of his namesake company. After working as a salesman in the toy business, Berrie used his own savings to start his company in 1963, operating out of a rented garage in Oakland, N.J. The company introduced and capitalized on such collectibles as trolls, “Bobble-Bods,” “Animagnets,” an array of plush animals and special-occasion porcelain figurines and, recently, home décor items. From ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in October to making an appearance on CNBC on Christmas Eve, Berrie was his company’s greatest cheerleader. Berrie lucked into the toy business almost on a fluke. After completing three years of college, he answered a classified advertisement and ended up working as a salesman for a Chicago-based toy concern. While the company he was working for wasn’t setting the world on fire with its toys, Berrie at least got a taste for the toy business and subsequently went to work for what was then the finest U.S. stuffed-animal manufacturer: Master Industries. Accordingly, Berrie’s company outgrew its garage to become a leader in the gift industry – with annual sales of over $300 million and employing more than 1,700 people worldwide. Berrie was also known as a generous philanthropist. One of his most recent and most substantial donations was to endow the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Selling, at New Jersey’s William Patterson University, scheduled to open to students in fall 2003.

1992

Sam Walton - Samuel Moore Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the world's largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world.[2] For a period of time, Walton was the richest man in America.[3] (wikipedia)

1989

Stephen Hassenfeld (January 19, 1942 – June 25, 1989) was an American businessman best known for being the chairman and chief executive officer of Hasbro from 1980 until 1989. In 1980, Stephen's father Merrill died, and Stephen took over control of Hasbro. From 1980 to 1986, Stephen Hassenfeld increased Hasbro's profitability by 85% annually. Only two Fortune 500 companies have achieved such a high rate of growth in profitability. Forbes magazine rated Hasbro number one in a thousand-corporation survey of increased value during the first half of the 1980s, well ahead of other successful companies such as Wal-Mart and Berkshire Hathaway. In 1983, Hassenfeld established the Hasbro Charitable Trust, and in 1984, he created Hasbro Children's Foundation. The two charities help to improve the lives of children and their families throughout the world by providing management of grant donations in operating areas, product donation, matching gifts to higher education, special community projects, and volunteering. Also, in 1990, the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders was created. The Children's Center is affiliated with NYU Langone Health, and under its current director, Dr. Elizabeth Raetz has been making remarkable strides in alleviating the worst of children's suffering. (from Wikipedia)

1987

Cliff Freeland (1915 - 1987) -  Cliff Freeland worked for and retired from the Louis Marx Company, where he was the Art Director and as such he traveled over the world.  He created the original Disneykins, studied magic under Blackstone, taught President Dwight D. Eisenhower how to paint. Freeland was a graduate of Pratt Institute in New York.  When he retired, he became a prolific painter of many styles. 

For Louis Marx, he was an Artist, Bodyguard, Designer and Magician.

1982

Louis Marx (August 11, 1896 – February 5, 1982) was an American toy maker and businessman whose company, Louis Marx and Company, was the largest toy company in the world in the 1950s. He was described by some as an experienced businessman with the mind of child. Marx was known by numerous nicknames, including "Toycoon," "the Henry Ford of the toy industry," "the hawk of the toy industry," and "the toy king of America. (from Wikipedia). He was on the front cover of TIME in December 1955. 

1981

Dick (Richard) Keats- Owner and President of Kaywood Industries and of Buddy L Toys, Dick, a well-known New York toy designer who went to work for Buddy L the day after he graduated from Brown University in 1948.  In 1990, Keats sold Buddy L to SLM International. Before his death in 1981, Arthur Lundhal, Buddy L himself, wrote of his father: “He truly believed that the only really good playthings were those that could make a child’s dreams come true, playthings you could actually do things with, ones that really worked just like the big machines they modeled”.

1979

Merrill Hassenfeld  (19 February 1918 - 21 March 1979) president and chairman of the board of Hasbro, Inc., the toy manufacturing giant that during the 1960s launched G. I. Joe, the first male action figure with accessories. The oldest of three children of Henry Hassenfeld, a pencil and toy manufacturer, and Marion Frank, a homemaker, Hassenfeld was born one year after his father and uncles Herman and Hillel founded Hassenfeld Brothers, Inc. After graduating as a business major from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938, Hassenfeld joined the family's firm, which by then had bought a pencil company. Just before World War II, Hassenfeld married Sylvia Kay; they had three children. At that time the company began including in its pencil boxes play stethoscopes and other toy medical equipment, sewing kits, and school supplies. In 1943 Hassenfeld's father placed his sons to lead the company's divisions. Merrill was put in charge of toys, while his brother Harold, headed pencils. Later, his brother's division split from Hassenfeld Brothers and became the Empire Pencil Corporation. The first best-seller made by Hassenfeld Brothers (the name was changed to Hasbro Industries in 1968) was Mr. Potato Head, invented by George Lerner. Introduced in 1952, it was the first toy advertised on national television. At first these toys were only plastic facial parts applied to an actual potato; by 1964 they came complete with a hard plastic body. Mr. Potato Head has sold over 50 million units since its development. (from Enclyopedia.com)

1972

Marvin Glass  - Marvin Glass was born Marvin I. Goldberg on July 14, 1914 and died at the age of 59 on January 8th, 1974. He changed his surname to Glass as an adult and founded Marvin Glass & Associates (or MGA as it was known) in 1941. Over his long and storied career, Marvin Glass helped develop and license hundreds of successful games and toys, including Yakity-Yak Talking Teeth, Mr. Machine, Mouse Trap, Operation, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Tip It, Lite Brite, Ants in the Pants, Toss Across, Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, and SSP Racers to name a few. At the time of his death, MGA was the largest toy design firm in the world and employed 75 designers, engineers, and model makers at MGA’s fortress of a studio at 815 N. La Salle Street in Chicago. In the years following 1988, when MGA was disbanded, many former employees of MGA started their on toy design firms in the Chicagoland area, including Meyer/Glass Design, Breslow, Morrison, Terzian & Associates (now Big Monster Toys), Rehkemper ID, Lund & Company, Barlow Design, Wayne Kuna & Associates, Barlow Design, and more. Chicago owes its status as “The Toy Design Capital of the World” to Marvin Glass and the many designers who were influenced by him.

(Thank you, Tim Walsh, for highlights of Marvin's career! For those that don't know, Tim has written many books about the toy and game industry, check out his website HERE!)

1936

Frank Hornby,  1863 - 1936, is the inventor of Meccano and Dinky Toys, as well as the founder of the model train firm that carries his name. 

He began his remarkable career by producing toys for his own children in 1889, despite having no official technical experience, and went on to manufacture some of the most popular toys of the twentieth century. Hornby became a multi-millionaire as a result of his creations. Meccano Ltd was the largest toy company in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. Hornby purchased five acres of land in Liverpool’s Old Swan neighborhood, and the Binns Road factory opened in 1914. For more than 60 years, this was the company’s headquarters...

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Thank you for being a reader of the Bloom Report. — Mary and Graeme

 

Founding Editor and Publisher (1998-2020, Retired): Philip Bloom

We are honored to carry on Phil's 22 year legacy and continue the Bloom Report. Phil has been a mensch

and we've loved working with him. Here is a fun and interesting interview with Phil.

If you would like to reach Phil: philip.bloom100@verizon.net   

Publisher: Mary Couzin, Chicago Toy & Game Group, Inc.

Managing Editor: Graeme Thomson

Assistant Editor: Patrick Fisher