Linus Maurer, a cartoonist and illustrator whose old friend and colleague Charles Schulz borrowed his first name for Charlie Brown’s blanket-wielding best friend, Linus, in his “Peanuts” comic strip and cartoons, has died at age 90.

Maurer died Jan. 29 in Sonoma, Calif., said his longtime partner Mary Jo Starsiak. He had struggled with Parkinson’s disease and heart trouble late in life.

About 65 years ago, Maurer and Schulz worked together at Art Instruction Schools Inc. in Minneapolis, when “Peanuts” was getting started.

Schulz told the story in a book celebrating “Peanuts’” 50th anniversary. “Linus came from a drawing that I made one day of a face almost like the one he now has,” Schulz wrote. “I experimented with some wild hair, and showed the sketch to a friend of mine who sat near me at art instruction, whose name was Linus Maurer. It seemed appropriate that I should name the character Linus.”

It was a common practice for Schulz, who named many “Peanuts” characters, including Charlie Brown, after the people that surrounded him. Schulz, who died in 2000, and Maurer remained lifelong friends.

Maurer had a successful run with comics in his own right, with syndicated strips in the 1960s and 1970s called “Old Harrigan,” “Abracadabra” and “In the Beginning.”

He also created the “Challenger” puzzle that was syndicated in newspaper crossword sections.

Associated Press