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Saturday, March 16, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jack Berrill, Creator Of Gil Thorp

Tribune Media Services

CHICAGO - Gil Thorp creator Jack Berrill died yesterday at his home in Brookfield, Conn., after a long battle with cancer.

Mr. Berrill, who was born in 1923, entered the newspaper business in 1941 as an $18-a-week copyboy for the New York Daily News. It was there that his work was noticed by Winnie Winkle creator Martin Branner. Mr. Berrill became Branner's assistant and worked for him over the next 17 years.

In 1958, Mr. Berrill created Gil Thorp, the legendary strip about a high school coach that addresses teens. Mr. Berrill had always wanted to do a sports strip and combined efforts with (what is now) Tribune Media Services, which was looking for a strip about teenagers.

Mr. Berrill and Gil Thorp have been called the unofficial representatives of this country's youth, undertaking the job of showing today's teens as they really are with important decisions to make. Mr. Berrill kept up with the times, taking the square-jawed Gil Thorp from the crew cuts, hot rods and slumber parties of 1958 to the teen pregnancy, divorce and drug issues of today.

The strip was named after two of Mr. Berrill's heroes - Jim Thorpe and Gil Hodges. Mr. Berrill often bounced story ideas for the strip off his wife, Veronica, an English teacher, and children, along with family friends who are teachers and coaches. Of the awards he received over the years, Mr. Berrill was proudest of the two presented to him by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association in 1966 and the Connecticut Education Association in 1980.

From a weekly cartoonists' luncheon of colleagues that Mr. Berrill always attended, Joe Faris, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and other magazines, said yesterday:

"Jack was a sensitive, caring person much loved by me and his friends. I'm going to miss our frequent conversations in which we covered everything from politics to sports and whatever was in the news and on our minds. I admired Gil Thorp, which was much more than a sports feature. The strip covered deep, personal relationships with an awareness of the current problems facing young people today. We've tipped a chair for him and made a toast at lunch today. He'll be deeply missed."

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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