The Hasbro executive responsible for helping to create G.I. Joe died on Thursday at the age of 86. Donald Levine died of cancer at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, reports Associated Press. His wife, Nan Levine, says they were preparing to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
As head of Hasbro’s research and development department, Levine assisted in the creation of the G.I Joe action figure. The first prototype was an 11 1/2-inch articulated figure with 21 moving parts. Due to the fact that many of the employees working at Hasbro were veterans, the decision was made to dress G.I. Joe toy in military garb. The toys included numerous accessories like guns, helmets and military vehicles. G.I. Joe first went on the market during the 1964 Christmas season, and sold for four dollars.
Though the popularity of G.I. Joe decreased as opposition to the Vietnam War grew in the late 1960s, Hasbro began to repackage the doll in response to this issue. They released several “Adventure Team” action figures in the 1970s that were not based on military themes but were instead dressed like explorers or scuba divers.
Speaking to the Providence Journal, former Hasbro chief executive officer Alan Hassenfeld described Levine as a hard worker and “wonderful asset at Hasbro for many years.” According to Hassenfeld, it was Stan Weston, not Levine, who originated the idea of G.I. Joe. But Hassenfeld says it was Levine and his team who took the idea and “made it into something bigger.”
“Don was a special, special human being,” Hassenfeld said. “It’s a huge loss for the toy industry.”
Levine’s funeral is being held at Temple Beth-El in Providence on Sunday.