GERRY Anderson, creator of the Thunderbirds and Joe 90 puppet superhero TV shows, has died at the age of 83, his son announced last night.
Mr Anderson had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease since early 2010, and his condition had worsened in the past six months, Jamie Anderson said.
Gerry Anderson also created Stingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Thunderbirds was filmed on Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire and was first broadcast in 1965.
The cult series with its distinctive wobbly string puppets and catchphrase “Thunderbirds are go!” was the best known of the television programmes created by Mr Anderson and his wife Sylvia.
The story, which was enjoyed by millions of children and adults, revolved around International Rescue, a futuristic emergency service manned by the Tracy family, often assisted by the aristocratic Lady Penelope – voiced by his wife – and her cockney butler, Parker, who punctuated his speech with the phrase “m’lady”.
The couple created their imaginary world after honing their so-called supermarionation technique on Fireball XL5 and Stingray. There were many spin-off versions of the series including a movie. Their characters and vehicles made particularly popular children’s toys.
First aired in the mid-1960s, the sci-fi programme imagined life in a space-age 21st century.
Jamie Anderson announced the news on his website, saying his father had died peacefully in his sleep at noon yesterday.
“Gerry was diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago and his condition worsened quite dramatically over the past six months.
“Having already decided with his family on a care home for himself earlier this year, he moved in there in October,” Jamie Anderson said.
Gerry Anderson spoke publicly about his disease in June 2012.
Speaking on BBC Berkshire, he said: “I don’t think I realised at all. It was my wife Mary who began to notice that I would do something quite daft like putting the kettle in the sink and waiting for it to boil.”
He was an celebrity ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Gerry Anderson has been an outstanding supporter of Alzheimer’s Society and campaigner on behalf of people with dementia.
“He was determined, despite his own recent diagnosis, to spend the last year of his life speaking out for others living with dementia to ensure their voices were heard and their lives improved.
“With the support of his family, Gerry tirelessly attended events around the country to raise awareness of the condition and to raise funds for a cure.
“The last time I saw Gerry was at the start of our annual Memory Walk in September where he was our guest of honour and star starter alongside Carey Mulligan.
“Gerry, accompanied and supported by his son Jamie, stayed to speak to the crowds, wave off the walkers and shake hands with the many friends and fans who had come to meet him.
“Gerry Anderson will be missed not only by the worldwide fans of his TV shows, but by all of us at Alzheimer’s Society who he has inspired to continue in our work to ultimately defeat dementia.”
Mr Anderson’s other creations included UFO, Space: 1999, Supercar and Fireball XL5.
He began his career studying fibrous plastering, but had to give it up when it gave him dermatitis.
After a spell with photographic portrait work, a job in Gainsborough films and time spent in air traffic control, he set up AP Films with some friends.
Commissions were few, however, so he responded eagerly to the opportunity to make a puppet series called The Adventures of Twizzle. That proved to be the stepping stone towards Thunderbirds and the iconic series was to come into being eight years later.
Edinburgh City Council hosted a memorable exhibition of Gerry Anderson models and other memorabilia at the City Of Edinburgh Art Centre in 1986.
Mr Anderson is survived by his second wife Mary and three children.