The man who made Sonoma smile twice a week for more than 25 years, cartoonist Linus Maurer, died Jan. 29 at the age of 90. Linus tickled the funny bones of Sonoma Index-Tribune readers with his hand-drawn, editorial page cartoons, which he almost always brought to the paper personally, brightening the mood in the newsroom.
Maurer’s cartoons and puzzles also appeared in newspapers nationwide, and he continued at his sketchpad until very recently, despite the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. Maurer attended the Minneapolis School of Art and Design with the late Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts,” who named his character with the striped shirt and security blanket after his buddy. Schulz and Maurer remained lifelong friends, and frequently met for coffee at Snoopy’s Home Ice skating rink in Santa Rosa, until Schulz’s death in 2000.
Maurer, too, authored widely circulated syndicated comics like “Old Harrigan” in the 1960s, “Abracadabra” in the ‘70s, followed by “In the Beginning.” He also created the “Challenger” numbers puzzle 20 times a month for King Features syndicate.
Early in his career Maurer was an illustrator for IBM and AT&T in New York, before moving to San Francisco in 1962 and working as an art director for the McCann Erickson ad agency and later Wells Fargo. When his cartooning career eventually took off, he left the corporate world and worked from his own office in Ghirardelli Square with a view of San Francisco Bay, not far from his home near the Palace of Fine Arts.
In his later years, after his wife had passed away, Maurer moved to Sonoma Valley and started cartooning for the Index-Tribune. In Sonoma, he met his longtime partner Mary Jo Starsiak, who was also a widow, and they shared a life together for 26 years. Their home displays many of Maurer’s fine art paintings, representative of the hundreds of paintings he sold in galleries throughout his life.
“He was such a sweet man,” Starsiak said. “I think he would like to be remembered for all his creative personalities – artist, cartoonist and his work making television commercials.”
She added that he always had a great sense of humor, even up to the final days of his illness, and that his kindness never ceased. “Even when he was so sick, he would always say thank you to me, and to his caregivers,” she said.
Maurer had no children, but delighted in Starsiak’s children and grandchildren, who thought he was so funny. “He was so kind,” she said, “That’s just the man he was.” A private service is planned, she said.
Maurer will live on in the art he left behind – and as his alter-ego Linus, still seen in “Peanuts” strips, most likely for many years to come.