Thelma Keane, wife of cartoonist Bil and inspiration for the mom in FAMILY CIRCUS has died at age 82 of Alzheimer’s disease.

“She was the inspiration for all of my success,” Bil Keane, 85, told The Associated Press from his home in Paradise Valley on Sunday. “When the cartoon first appeared, she looked so much like Mommy that if she was in the supermarket pushing her cart around, people would come up to her and say, `Aren’t you the Mommy in “Family Circus?” ‘ and she would admit it.”

Bil and Thelma “Thel” Keane met during World War II in the war bond office in Brisbane, Australia. She was a native Australian working as an accounting secretary, and Bil worked next to her as a promotional artist for the U.S. Army.

Thelma was mother o six children, including Jeff, who helps his father on the current strip, and animator Glen.


  1. I grew up with the Family Circus comics. They were such a special part of my life. I feel like I just lost a dearly loved family member. RIP Thel!

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