Creator of children's TV character Barnaby dead at 86

CLEVELAND - Linn Sheldon, whose folksy children's character "Barnaby" entertained generations of northeast Ohio kids, died Sunday at 86.

Sheldon died at his home in suburban Lakewood, said John Malloy of Malloy Memorial Services, which is handling arrangements. Malloy did not know the cause of death, but

The Plain Dealer

newspaper reported it was complications from congestive heart failure.

Sheldon spent 42 years on the air in Cleveland, where in 1956 he created Barnaby, the elf who initially hosted a Popeye cartoon show. Appearing daily in a straw hat, wax ears and often a candy-striped jacket, Sheldon greeted children with a hearty, "Hi, neighbor!" until he retired in 1990.

Sheldon (pictured, above) mostly ad-libbed the part each day from a trunk of items provided by the crew on the set, creating a cast of characters to inhabit his "Enchanted Forest." Foremost among them was Longjohn the Invisible Parrot, which consisted of a birdcage and Sheldon as ventriloquist.

The bit became so popular that 8,000 people showed up downtown for a 1964 parade of invisible pets.

"Linn could take 20 cents worth of props and make your imagination run," said Tim Conway, the comedian famous for his diminutive "Dorf" character. "That's what talent is all about. He owned Cleveland. He's a monument to the city."

Services will be private, Malloy said.

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