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Updated Apr 11, 2013 - 1:43 pm

Paradise Valley raising money for Bil Keane memorial

The statue of Bil Keane sits inside of the Paradise Valley Town Hall post office. The city would like to build a nine-foot version, but lacks funds. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- A Valley community wants to honor the creator of "The Family Circus" cartoon strip.

Cartoonist Bil Keane was an important part of Paradise Valley.

"The comic strip ‘Family Circus' was born in his house at the base of Mummy Mountain," said former Vice Mayor Mary Hamway. "He loved this area. He loved waking up every day to the mountain. He just loved our community."

Keane died in 2011 at the age of 89. To honor their dad, Keane's two sons created a small statue of their dad and his cartoon characters that now sits in the post office inside the Paradise Valley Town Hall.

"What they've done is taken a concept that was very consistent in some of Bil Keane's comics. That is the dad giving the children a piggy back ride," Hamway said. "The name of the statue is 'Giddy Up Daddy.'"

Now, Hamway is leading an effort to unveil a nine-foot tall version of the statue as part of Bil Keane celebration that will be a permanent memorial somewhere on the town hall grounds.

Paradise Valley needs $75,000 to do it and recently got a big boost: It received a $20,000 donation from Manya Long, the daughter of the late Valley developer John F. Long, who was a fan of the comic strip.

"The comic strip was a part of her life growing up," said Hamway. "She thought this was a wonderful way to honor her parents."

Hamway is hoping to unveil the memorial on Nov. 8 to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Keane's death. To accomplish that, the town needs to raise all of the money by April 30.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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