Cartoonist Bil Keane
Cartoonist Bil Keane is seen with characters from his comic strip ''The Family Circus'' in this undated publicity photograph. Keane, whose kid-friendly comic strip gave readers a funny version of his own life at home and became one of the most widely syndicated cartoon panels in the world, has died at age 89, his distributor said on November 9, 2011. Keane died on November 8 of congestive heart failure at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, said Claudia Smith, a spokeswoman for syndication company King Features. Reuters

Popular cartoonist Bil Keane, the creator of household comics Family Circus, has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 89 on Tuesday.

His comic strip featuring Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, P.J. and their parents, initially was published in February 1960, has entertained readers for more than a half century.

Undoubtedly, Keane will forever be identified with Family Circus, as the comic appears in about 1,500 newspapers across the country.

I would rather have the readers react with a warm smile, a tug at the heart of a lump in the throat as they recall doing the same things in their own family, Keane said about the comics in his biography.

Keane's son Jeff Keane called it as a different type of comic, and my dad's genius, in which there are more simple, inoffensive style of humor from everyday occurrences than laugh-out-loud jokes.

I never thought about a philosophy for the strip — it developed gradually, Keane told the East Valley Tribune in 1998.

Jeff keeps the consistency and simplicity of the comics since he assisted his father first as inker and colorist on Family Circus. Now readers even can't distinguish between his style and his father's.

As a devoted family man who enjoyed doting on his loved ones, Keane frequently mirrored his own at-home life in the comics Family Circus, in which the characters were based on his wife, sons Neal, Glen, Christopher and Jeff, and daughter Gayle.

I was portraying the family through my eyes. Everything that's happened in the strip has happened to me. Keane said to the East Valley Tribune in 1998.

I like to feel that what I'm doing portrays this: a family where there is love between mother, father and the kids, Keane told King Features. It's a subject that is near and dear to me.

The great thing is Dad loved the family so much, Jeff said. All of Keane's children, grandchildren and great-granddaughter visited him last week.

He was just our dad. The great thing about him is he worked at home, we got to see him all the time, and we would all sit down and have dinner together. What you see in the 'Family Circus' is what we were and what we still are, just different generations. Jeff added.

There are 14 million Family Circus paperbacks in print, according to King Features, 60 books were written by Keane.

Keane also assisted with three Family Circus TV specials (the first in 1978), which were all ratings successes, and he got the reward of Cartoonist of the Year in 1982.

He was a great emcee who had an amazing ability to play on words. People were surprised to hear this volcanic stream coming out of a little guy, USAToday quoted Arizona Republic editorial cartoonist Steve Benson as saying. Every now and then, he would send me a letter, handwritten always, with some of his characters at the bottom of it...He was the nicest guy you'd want to meet.

Keane was born on Oct. 5, 1922 in Philadelphia, where he taught himself to draw while attending high school.

He started a one-panel comic in 1953 called Channel Chuckles, and started a comic about a family much like his own, two years after he moved to Arizona in 1958.