Lee Mendelson, best known as the executive producer of A Charlie Brown Christmas, died in his Bay Area home on Christmas Day. He was 86 years old.
Mendelson's son, Jason Mendelson, confirmed the tragic news to CNN on Friday, stating his father died of congestive heart failure following a battle with lung cancer.
"We are very sad to lose our wonderful father, but Lee would have said it was serendipitous to pass on Christmas when the song he wrote with Vince Guaraldi is being heard everywhere and the program he created with Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez is being celebrated around the world," the younger Mendelson said in reference to the "Christmas Time Is Here" track written for A Charlie Brown Christmas special.
Mendelson began working in television in 1961 when he landed a gig at San Francisco's KPIX-TV. About a couple of years later, he started his Lee Mendelson Productions and formed a long-lasting relationship with Peanuts creator Charles Schultz and voice actor/animator Bill Melendez. Mendelson would go on to produce more than 50 specials featuring Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, including It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and, most recently, It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown (2015). Mendelson won his 12th Emmy award for the latter special; the six of those dozen were for Peanuts-related work.
The Stanford graduate also produced TV programs for the Garfield and Cathy comic strips, as well as a number of documentaries, including Travels with Charley, The Innocent Fair, and A Man Named Mays.
Mendelson is survived by his wife, Ploenta; his kids Jason, Glenn, Lynda, and Sean; and eight grandchildren.
Read some of the tributes for the prolific producer below.