Bil Keane, creator of “Family Circus” comic strip, artist for NFPA  fire safety campaign, dies at 89

Blog Post created by mikehazell Employee on Nov 10, 2011

Bil KeaneBil Keane, a cartoonist who for more than 50 years entertained readers of the funny pages with his "Family Circus" comic strip, died on November 8 at his Arizona home. He was 89.

According to Mr. Keane’s obituary in the LA Times, "Family Circus" appears in nearly 1,500 papers around the world, making it the most widely read syndicated panel. His cast of instantly-recognizable characters –mom, dad, their four children (Billy, Dolly, Jeffy, PJ), and their dog, Barfy - used gentle humor to show the lighter side of modern family life. 

In 1998, NFPA invited Mr. Keane to draw the official artwork for posters, brochures, and other fire safety material for its annual Fire Prevention Week campaign.

“Mr. Keane was really very nice and a pleasure to work with,” says NFPA project manager Steve Dornbusch. “He sincerely liked helping people. However, at one point when it came to drawing Sparky the Fire Dog® (NFPA’s official mascot), he had problems getting him right, and I had to give him some art direction. By the third time he very nicely, but firmly, said to me – ‘I'm a cartoonist - not an illustrator, this is what I do.’  It looked great to me after that!” 

Some examples of Mr. Keane’s work on NFPA’s 1998 Fire Prevention Week campaign:

Bil Keane FPW artwork

Bil Keane FPW artwork

Bil Keane FPW artwork

Following is a note Mr. Keane sent to NFPA's Steve Dornbusch after he had completed the art for NFPA's Fire Prevention Week campaign in 1998: 

Bil Keane note to NFPA

- Mike Hazell