Jean Shepherd was a beloved American storyteller, humorist, writer, and radio personality. He is best known for his stories and monologues on WOR-AM radio in New York City from the early 1950s until his firing in 1965. He also narrated and co-wrote the classic film A Christmas Story (1983), based on his own semi-autobiographical stories. But how did he die and what was his cause of death?
Early Life and Career
Jean Shepherd was born Jean Parker Shepherd Jr., on July 26, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois, to Jean Shepherd Sr. and Anna Shepherd. He grew up with a younger brother named Randy, in East Chicago, Indiana. His father worked in a dairy while his mother was a housewife. The family eventually moved to Hammond, where Jean graduated from Hammond High School in 1939.
Following his graduation, Jean enrolled in the United States Army during World War II. He served in the Signal Corps and was discharged after the war ended. He then began his radio career in 1945, working at various stations in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati. He settled in at WOR radio New York City in 1955 and became a popular overnight host.
Jean Shepherd had a unique style of engaging the audience through humorous storytelling. He told stories from his childhood and talked about random things such as human nature and life in America. He also read poetry, organized listener stunts, and created hoaxes. One of his most famous hoaxes was about a nonexistent book called I, Libertine, which he claimed was on The New York Times Best Seller list.
Jean Shepherd also worked in television and films. He wrote and hosted several TV shows, such as Jean Shepherd’s America and Shepherd’s Pie. He also appeared as an actor in some movies, such as The Light Fantastic and Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss. His most celebrated film work was A Christmas Story, which he narrated and co-scripted with director Bob Clark. The film was based on his stories from his books In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories.
Death and Legacy
Jean Shepherd died of natural causes on October 16, 1999, at the age of 78. He was living in Sanibel Island, Florida, with his third wife Leigh Brown, who had died a year earlier. He had two children from his first marriage to Joan Warner: Randall and Adrian.
Jean Shepherd left behind a rich legacy of stories and humor that influenced many writers and comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Judd Apatow, Ray Bradbury, and Garrison Keillor. His stories have been collected in several books and anthologies, such as A Fistful of Fig Newtons and The Ferrari in the Bedroom. His radio shows have been preserved and broadcasted by several stations and websites, such as WBAI-FM and The Brass Figlagee.
Jean Shepherd is also remembered for his film A Christmas Story, which has become a cult classic and a holiday tradition. The film is shown every year on TV networks such as TBS and TNT. It has also inspired a musical adaptation, a sequel, a museum, and a marathon race.
Jean Shepherd was a master storyteller who entertained millions of listeners and viewers with his witty and nostalgic tales. He died of natural causes but his stories live on forever.