Robert James “Bob” Keeshan died on January 23, 2004 at the age of 76; he was an American television producer and actor.
Born in Lynbrook, New York June 27, 1927, after an early graduation from Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York in 1945, during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, but was still in the United States when Japan surrendered.
By September 21, 1953, Keeshan was back on the air on WABC-TV (New York City), in a new children’s show, Time for Fun.
He played Corny the Clown, and this time he spoke. Later that same year, in addition to Time for Fun, Keeshan began Tinker’s Workshop, a program aimed at preschoolers, with him playing the grandfather-like Tinker.
Keeshan also had a Saturday morning show called Mister Mayor during the 1964–65 season.
Keeshan, in his role as the central character in both Captain Kangaroo and Mister Mayor, heavily promoted the products of the Schwinn Bicycle Co., a sponsor, directly on-air to his audience.
By 1972, Keeshan had introduced another character on Captain Kangaroo to recommend Schwinn products, Mr. Schwinn Dealer, due to the Federal Trade Commission ruling against children’s show hosts directly endorsing their sponsor’s products during their programs after 1969.
Keeshan suffered a severe heart attack on July 13, 1981, which pushed the start of a revamped version of his show back to at least mid-August. Keeshan suffered the heart attack just moments after stepping off a plane at Toronto International Airport.
He had come to the city to accept a children’s service award. Keeshan lived on Melbury Road in Babylon Village, Long Island, New York before moving to spend the last 14 years of his life in Norwich, Vermont, where he became a children’s advocate as well as an author.
His memoirs, entitled Good Morning, Captain, were published in 1995 by Fairview Press. He was a strong advocate against video game violence and took part in congressional hearings in 1993.
In addition, he joined with parents groups in the 1980s who protested children’s TV shows based on then present toys on the market, like He-Man and Transformers; he felt that toys turned into TV shows did not teach children anything about the real world.
Keeshan’s grandson, Britton Keeshan, received a master’s degree from Dartmouth in 2006. Mr. Keeshan was a regular visitor to the College in his latter years, and lived just across the river in nearby Norwich and Hartford, VT, for a number of years until his death in 2004.