Friday, March 16, 2012

Sid Couchey 1919-2012

Artist Sid Couchey passed away on March 11, 2012, at the age of 92. Though he had a long and varied career, he is best known for his work at Harvey Comics, where he became the primary artist for Little Dot and Little Lotta and occasionally, Richie Rich. I spoke with Sid many times over the past 10-15 years, and he was always friendly and engaging. He always went out of his way for me and sent me many pieces of original art over the years, and even contributed original art for me to display in my traveling Harvey Art Show in 2008, when he was not able to attend in San Francisco or New York. I was eternally grateful for these pieces and now I cherish them even more. I did only one formal interview with him for my fanzine “The Harveyville Fun Times!” back on March 17, 2004. I do miss him dearly. Even though he was 92, his death came as a shock to me, regardless.

Sid was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 24, 1919, and became a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan. He had two older brothers. The family moved to Saginaw, Michigan, then Champagne, Illinois, and eventually ended up in Essex, NY, Sid’s permanent home. When Sid was very young, his father, Lester, would come home with the Sunday funnies and Sid would lay them out and draw such great old comics as the "Katzenjammer Kids", "Toonerville Trolley Folks", "Hairbredth Harry", "Krazy Kat" and on and on.

When Sid was a teenager, he felt that his cartooning was pretty good stuff. About that time Walt Disney, Mickey, Goofy and company exploded on the scene. Sid wrote Walt a letter indicating that I was ready to come to California and help him out. To his surprise, Sid received a return letter (without a train ticket) saying that Walt wasn't quite ready for Sid! Sid appreciated art from people like Walt Kelly, Burne Hogarth and Norman Rockwell. He went to the School of Visual Arts and also took an art correspondence course from the Cleveland based Landon School of Cartooning.

After his schooling, Sid worked for Fox, “Famous Funnies” and “Heroic Comics” before settling in on Harvey Comics, his main place of employment within the comic book industry from the late 1950s through the early 1980s. Sid relates how he got hired at Harvey in the 2004 interview I conducted, “A group of guys that I played softball with at the School of Visual Arts started their own Comics Studio and heard that Harvey was looking. It wasn't their shtick so they told me about it. I went over and met Sid Jacobson, Alfred Harvey and then, Warren Kremer. After a few weeks I began to get stuff with some regularity. Mostly “Little Lottas” and “Little Dots”. Not long before that Ruth and I were married. Later, I was told that I needn't come in on a weekly basis and I could move and mail if need be. It didn't take long to pack up Ruth, newborn baby Brian, and head back up to Essex, in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain. In that scenario, I seldom met any of the other Harvey Players."

For many years, Sid also conducted private art lessons and also created and designed characters such as “Rascal the Raccoon”, an anti-drug character for the State of Vermont and “Roo, the Reader”, a kangaroo, for Literacy Volunteers. He also created characters such as Sherlock Ohms & Dr. Wattson, Gaucho Marx, and Champy, the Lake Champlain Sea Monster, and received a lifetime achievement award in Kansas City. His artwork also appeared regularly in the magazine called “Good Old Days” and he drew a couple of “Tom Tyler Comics” as well, featuring the adventures of a B-movie favorite of Sid’s.

Sid once told me that being a Cleveland Indians fan is just as tough as being a Chicago Cubs fan and until recently, a Boston Red Sox fan. Sid’s lifelong love for the team allowed him to throw out the first pitch for at least one Indians game, which he was fully dressed up for and relished the moment!

Sid was still bright and vibrant as recently as January 2012, when a rare form of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma struck him and took his life on March 11th. His wife of 52 years, Ruth; their two children; and many grandchildren survive him. He died in Inman, South Carolina, as the Coucheys had made a regular pilgrimage from Essex every year rather than braving the harsh upstate New York winters.

Sid seemed to have endless amounts of energy that even though he was in his 90s, it seemed that he would keep on living forever.

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