Iconic New Zealand cartoonist and Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball has died, aged 78.
Radio New Zealand reported that he died at home on Sunday morning after an eight year battle with Alzheimer's. He is survived by his wife Pam, three children and grandchildren.
"[He was a] wonderful, wonderful man and we're all feeling very sad. It was extremely sad to see him go but he's looking very peaceful now," Mrs Ball told Radio New Zealand.
Ball was best known for the Footrot Flats comic strip which was made into New Zealand's first feature length animated film in 1986.
The comic ran from 1976 to 1994 in newspapers around the world. He had dozens of published books, selling millions of copies in Australasia. The main protagonists were a tough talking Border Collie named "Dog", and a farmer from Norhtern Manawatu named "Wal". The comic is considered a humorous celebration of life on a farm in rural New Zealand.
The comic inspired The Footrot Flats Leisure Park in Te Atatu North.
Tom Scott, a friend and creative collaborator, told the New Zealand Herald he received a call Sunday afternoon with the news.
"I know he had been ill," Scott told the New Zealand Herald.
"He was being nursed at home for a terrible illness.
"He was an unbelievably strong, fit, handsome man all his life, with a full head of hair."
New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English said he was "saddened to learn of the death".
Saddened to learn of the death of Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball, a thoughtful NZer who took our unique sense of humour to the world.— Bill English (@pmbillenglish) March 12, 2017
Ball grew up in New Zealand and was educated in Australia and South Africa. Ball's father, Nelson Ball was a rugby player from 1931 to 1936. Ball initially followed in his father's path, becoming a Junior All Black and a triallist for the All Blacks. The New Zealand rugby team paid tribute to ball on Twitter.
Ball later became a reporter for a newspaper before becoming a freelance cartoonist, developing a comic strip 'Stanley the Palaeolithic Hero' before creating Footrot Flats.
In mourning. Footrot flats gave so many hours of amusement and laughter pic.twitter.com/q8V3odTtsE— Sarah Henry (@sarahlhenry) March 12, 2017
Cartoonist, creator of Footrot Flats, Wal and Dog (and staunch campaigner for social justice) Murray Ball has died. pic.twitter.com/PWduUtnkbf— Intactive (@intactive) March 12, 2017
Murray Ball's political satire influenced me a lot as a kid - especially his "Stanley" cartoons. Loved Footrot Flats, too. Very sad. pic.twitter.com/trDCk4gJ3R— Bryce Edwards (@bryce_edwards) March 12, 2017