BOSTON – The Massachusetts man who invented the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament, which went from a 1960s craze to a kitsch icon, died this week aged 79, his widow said on Tuesday.
Donald Featherstone was just out of art school in 1957 when a plastics company called on him to make their flat designs three-dimensional. He made a model of one of the long-legged birds by consulting photos in National Geographic magazine, as the flamingo is not commonly found in New England.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor, and was happy to have created something that brought pleasure to so many people,” his widow, Nancy Featherstone, said in a phone interview.
The couple kept 57 plastic flamingos in their backyard, she added, as a reminder of “where their bread was buttered.”
A friend and former colleague of Featherstone’s, Bruce Zarozny, said the designer had been “incredibly proud” of the bird, one of some 600 lawn ornaments the designer turned out in a long career.
“You’d see him working on things: Santa Claus, snowmen, ducks,” said Zarozny, president of Cado Co., which in the early 2000s acquired Union Products, the original producer of the flamingo. “It was his passion.”
Featherstone retired in 1999.
He died on Monday at an elder care facility in Fitchburg, west of Boston. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two children, Judith Nelson and Harold Featherstone, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.