HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Western cartoonist and author Stan Lynde, creator of the nationally syndicated "Rick O'Shay" comic strip, has died of cancer in Montana. He was 81.
His "Rick O'Shay" comic strip began in 1958 and ran for 20 years with an average daily readership of about 15 million people. In 1979, he launched another comic strip, "Latigo," which ran through 1983. Lynde died Tuesday in Helena, where he lived with his wife.
Myron Stanford "Stan" Lynde was born in Billings in 1931 and was raised on a cattle and sheep ranch on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation. His mother gave him crayons and paper and taught him to draw to keep her young son occupied, said Lynde's sister, Lorretta.
"Cowboys were my heroes," Stan Lynde told the Independent Record in December 2012. "I followed them around and they played with me."
His parents read him the cartoons in the Sunday newspaper, and he said it was an "epiphany" when he learned that people were paid to write and draw cartoons.
"I wanted to be a cartoonist all my life — from age 5 or 6, that's what I wanted to do," Lynde said in December.
He drew daily comics in high school and created the comic strip "Ty Foon" for the Navy newspaper while he served during the Korean conflict.
In the 1950s, he moved to New York, where he drew on his ranch background and his affinity for Western humor to create the "Rick O'Shay" strip that included characters such as gunslinger Hipshot Percussion, banker Mort Gage and a kid named Quyat Burp who lived in the western town of Conniption.
The characters in the comic strip were composites "of the old time cowboys and the people I knew growing up," Lynde said.
He moved back to Montana in 1962 after his "Rick O'Shay" cartoon was established and appearing in about 100 papers including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
When Lynde retired from cartooning, he wrote eight Western novels featuring the character Merlin Fanshaw. He also wrote a historical novel, "Vigilante Moon."
Late last year, Lynde donated some of his original art, memorabilia and possessions to the Montana Historical Society in Helena, including his trademark hat.
"Stan was an incredibly creative and soft-spoken man," said Bruce Whittenberg, director of the Montana Historical Society. "You couldn't help but respect him. He was such a class act."
Helena artist Bob Morgan called Lynde a "real gentleman" who loved cartooning and "was a great contributor to Montana."
"I feel very blessed," Lynde told the IR in December. "I've been able to do the work I love for an appreciative audience. I love this state and people of this state. If my tombstone said something about Montana, I'd be really happy. I've never met any state with people who have such character."
Lynde and his wife, Lynda, moved to Ecuador in January but returned to Helena this spring when he became ill.
Lynde is survived by his wife and eight children.