Tomie dePaola — the beloved children’s author and illustrator — has died at the age of 85.
According to the Associated Press, Tomie dePaola — known for his stories about the kind old witch, Strega Nona — passed away on Monday at the Dartmouth-Hancock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
He was injured in fall last week and had to undergo a surgical procedure. He died following the surgery.
The Facebook page for Winding Oak Children’s Literature announced his passing:
“We mourn the loss of a master storyteller. Tomie dePaola has passed away. We extend our sympathy to his legions of readers, friends, and colleagues.”
Tomie dePaola’s death comes soon after playwright Terrence McNally died at 81 due to coronavirus complications.
Mark Blum, the veteran stage and screen actor, also died on Wednesday, March 25, at 81, due to coronavirus complications.
Tributes pour in on Twitter
Fans of the beloved writer have been paying glowing tribute on Twitter and other social media platforms.
RIP Tomie DePaola, one of my favorite artists. His gentle fables were the backdrop of my childhood. In his honor, I hope to someday become an old witch who makes too much pasta pic.twitter.com/1bE1sSfkdi
— a spooky little meatball (@Madeline_Gobbo) March 30, 2020
Reading Tomie dePaola’s books to my preschoolers was a pleasure I looked forward to everyday when I was a teacher. Joy & love jumped off his pages. Rest In Peace, Mr. dePaola, after a life well lived. pic.twitter.com/vVSkKNcRhV
— Anita (@__Neetz__) March 30, 2020
Rest in peace, Tomie dePaola. Thank you for Strega Nona and for all the literary delight you've given to countless readers over the years. #writingcommmunity #TomiedePaola #StregaNona https://t.co/PAhV6p4HY8
— Olivia Kate Cerrone (@OliviaKCerrone) March 30, 2020
It's so hard to say goodbye to the one, the only, Tomie dePaola. He was a legendary storyteller and a brilliant artist. We will miss him, but we're thankful that his stories will live on in the hearts of readers everywhere. pic.twitter.com/8aB1yVIYpm
— Simon Kids (@SimonKIDS) March 30, 2020
Tomie dePaola bio
Tomie dePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut, in September 1934. His parents were Joseph and Florence DePaola. He had an older brother named Joseph and two younger sisters named Judie and Maureen.
He took interest in writing and art from an early age and his family encouraged him.
In 1956 he graduated from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He taught at Newton College of the Sacred Heart and Chamberlayne Junior College in Boston, the San Francisco College for Women, and the Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire.
dePaola retired from his teaching career in 1978 to devote his time to working as a writer and illustrator.
He wrote and illustrated more than 270 books throughout his career and more than 25 million copies of his books were sold.
dePaola’s work was translated into more than 20 languages and covered folktales, legends, and spirituality.
He is best known for his beautifully illustrated stories about Strega Nona, but he also wrote stories about other fictional characters that he created.
dePaola got the inspiration to create Strega Nona while doodling during a faculty meeting at Colby-Sawyer College.
He published his first story about Strega Nona, titled Strega Nona: An Original Tale, in 1975. In the story, Strega Nona saves her village from being submerged in pasta overflowing from a magic pot.
dePaola went on to publish several other titles in his Strega Nona series, including favorites Strega Nona Meets Her Match and Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons.
The character is a witch from Calabria in southern Italy where dePaola’s grandparents came from.
He once told the AP that he thought Strega Nona’s popularity was because she reminded everyone of their kindly grandmother.
“She’s cute, she’s not pretty, she’s kind of funny-looking, but she’s sweet, she’s understanding. And she’s a little saucy, she gets a little irritated every once in a while.”
He also created autobiographical books about his life, such as 26 Fairmont Avenue, which told the story of his life as a young person living in Connecticut during the Great Depression.
For his literary work, the American Library Association awarded dePaola the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in 2011.
Tomie dePaola also lived in New Hampshire and worked in a 200-year-old renovated barn.