Berenstain Bears co-creator Jan Berenstain dies, aged 88

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Berenstain Bears co-creator Jan Berenstain has died at age 88.

Berenstain suffered a severe stroke on Thursday at home in Solebury, Pennsylvania, and died Friday without regaining consciousness, The Associated Press quoted her son, Mike Berenstain, as saying.

Berenstain, along with husband Stan, who died in 2005 aged 82, built a publishing empire writing and illustrating the Berenstain Bears books, which follow the lives of a family of bears.

The LA Times wrote:

"The Berenstain Bears books have offered parents and their young children guidance, comfort and old-fashioned humor about perennial issues such as fear of the dentist, dealing with bullies and resolving sibling rivalries since the first book was published 50 years ago."

Since the release in 1962 of the first Berenstain Bears volume, "The Big Honey Hunt," the series has sold about 260 million books, which have been translated into almost two dozen languages and inspired TV shows, amusement park rides and animal crackers made in the bears' images, according to the Washington Post.

As though answering the criticisms over the years that the Berenstains promoted outmoded gender roles and overly simplified life lessons, Jan Berenstain told the AP in 2011: "They say jokes don't travel well, but family humor does. Family values is what we're all about."

The Berenstain bear cubs have rarely faced more than one hurdle or affliction at a time, the Washington Post wrote: "Over the years, they encountered a new baby, the first day of school, a trip to the dentist, bullies, stage fright, fear of the dark and jealousy."

The real Berenstains said the bears were inspired by their own children, and later their grandchildren.

The couple had been married since 1946, having met five years earlier when they were 18 and attending their first day of art school.

Their publishing success began after Stan Berenstain returned from service during World War II, when he was a medical illustrator at a stateside Army hospital. Jan Berenstain worked as a draftsman for the Army Corps of Engineers and as a riveter building Navy seaplanes, the AP reported. 

They initially built their career in periodicals, as illustrators, and before the Berenstain Bears, they produced with a cartoon series called "All in the Family" which ran in McCall's and Good Housekeeping magazines for 35 years. 

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