Captain Kagaroo Dies


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TV's 'Captain Kangaroo,' Bob Keeshan, dead
Friday, January 23, 2004 Posted: 2:19 PM EST (1919 GMT)

(CNN) -- Television's Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan, died Friday morning in Vermont, a family friend told CNN. He was 76.

He died after a long illness, his family told The Associated Press.

"Captain Kangaroo," a children's show, featured the walrus-mustached, bowl-haircut Keeshan entertaining youngsters with his gentle, whimsical humor. Among the show's other characters were the puppets Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, as well as Dancing Bear and the laconic Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum).

The show ran on CBS from 1955 to 1985, and then moved to public television for six more years. The show won six Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

The format was simplicity itself: Keeshan would wander through the Treasure House, wearing his distinctive big-pocketed coat, and talk with Brannum and the puppets. He'd meet with guests, tell stories, and generally entertain.

Shows were frequently interrupted with silliness, such as hundreds of ping-pong balls dropping from the ceiling or Mr. Moose's knock-knock jokes.

But the mainstay was the grandfatherly Keeshan.

"I was impressed with the potential positive relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, so I chose an elderly character," Keeshan said, according to the AP.

Bob Keeshan in 1999.
In a statement issued by his son Michael, Keeshan's family said: "Our father, grandfather and friend was as passionate for his family as he was for America's children. He was largely a private man living an often public life as an advocate for all that our nation's children deserve."

"Captain Kangaroo" aired in the early mornings on CBS until 1985, when the network canceled the show to expand its morning news program.

Keeshan was named Broadcaster of the Year in 1979 by the International Radio and Television Society and was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998. He also spent five years as the silent Clarabell the Clown on "The Howdy Doody Show."

Keeshan was closely involved with health and child-care issues, serving on several boards and working to provide child care to the children of large corporations.

When Fred Rogers, the gentle host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," died last year, Keeshan recalled how they often spoke about the state of children's programming, according to the AP.

"I don't think it's any secret that Fred and I were not very happy with the way children's television had gone," Keeshan said.

Born in 1927 in suburban Long Island, the future Captain Kangaroo grew up in Forest Hills, New York, and was an NBC page for his last year of high school during World War II. He joined the Marines after graduation.

He returned to his page job after his discharge from the Marines, and attended Fordham University.

Keeshan is survived by three children and six grandchildren.
What a bummer. It was me, my Cream O' Wheat and Captain Kangaroo when I was young.