The artist died June 22 surrounded by family

By Maria Coder
Updated June 24, 2015 10:30 AM
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Credit: Amy Sancetta/AP

You may not know him by name, but surely you’ve seen his work.

Donald Featherstone, the inventor of the iconic pink plastic flamingos that dotted lawns for decades, died in Massachusetts on Monday. He was 79.

According to his wife Nancy, Featherstone was battling Lewy body dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. She says he passed away peacefully and was surrounded by his family at an elder care facility in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the Associated Press reports.

A trained sculptor rooted in classical art, Featherstone created the kitschy creature in 1957 with inspiration from a photo he saw in National Geographic. It was one of hundreds of items he made during his 43 years working with Union Products plastics company. He eventually became president of the company and retired in 1999.

In 2006, Union went out of business, putting the fate of the flamingo in peril. Fortunately, Cado Products Inc. purchased the company, which kept the bird in business.

In an interview commemorating the 40th anniversary of the flamingo in 1996, Featherstone expressed his love for his creation: “People say they re tacky, but all great art began as tacky.”

Featherstone lived long enough to see a Disney movie character named after him – Gnomeo and Juliet has a pink flamingo in his honor.

“Donald was a unique, one-of-a-kind individual,” his wife told The Boston Globe. “There was no one like Donald. Absolutely no one.”

In addition to his wife, he’s survived by two children, Judith Nelson and Harold Featherstone.