Robert Temple Ayres, the set illustrator whose burning Ponderosa map opened TV's long-running Western series "Bonanza," has died in California. He was 98.
His daughter, Sharon Richards, says he died of heart failure Feb. 25 at his home in Riverside County.
The Los Angeles Times ( http://lat.ms/z2v8mb) says Ayres made a final trek to see his artwork at Los Angeles' Autry National Center of the American West just days before he died. He created the painting at Paramount Studios in 1959. The Ponderosa map was opened each "Bonanza" episode, bursting into flames to reveal the Cartwright clan, played by Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts.
Ayres began his studio career on "Ben-Hur" and worked as a set illustrator on hundreds of films, including "Blue Hawaii" and "The Black Hole."