Creator of plastic pink flamingo dies one day before Pink Flamingo Day

Chances are, at some point you’ve seen a plastic pink flamingo, or perhaps a whole flock, adorning someone’s lawn. Wherever it was, you have Donald Featherstone to thank for that neon memory in your mind.

Featherstone, the creator of the plastic pink flamingo, died Monday at age 79 after a battle with Lewy body dementia.

“He was the nicest guy in the world,” Featherstone’s wife, Nancy Featherstone, told the AP. “He didn’t have a selfish bone in his body. He was funny and had a wonderful sense of humor and he made me so happy for 40 years.”

WEST NEWTON, MA - JUNE 13:  Flamingos dot the landscape of Jill Hunter's house at a party held in honor of the plastic pink flamingo on June 13, 2004 in West Newton, Massachusetts.  The original plastic pink flamingo was made by Union Products, a plastics manufacturing company in Leominster, Massachusetts after it was invented by Donald Featherstone in 1957.  Citing the rising costs of electricity, plastic resin and financing, the plastic pink flamingo, age 49, met its demise.  Long venerated as an icon of American kitsch, the flamingo was in equal measures reviled and revered.  (Photo by Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images)

The original plastic pink flamingo was made by Union Products, a plastics manufacturing company in Leominster, Massachusetts. Photo by Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images.

Today — just one day after Featherstone’s death — is Pink Flamingo Day. The holiday was established in 2007 in the decorative birds’ homeland. The storied plastic pink fowl does not originally hail from Florida, as many might assume thanks to Miami Vice, but from Leominster, Massachusetts.

When your name includes the word “feather,” you can expect a life gone to the birds. While working for plastic company Union Products, Featherstone — a trained sculptor– fashioned the pink bird in 1957 after spotting its real-life model in a National Geographic magazine. During the post-World War II era, the birds took flight in suburban yards across the country. Their popularity dipped in the 1960s when they were considered tacky, and became the quintessential symbol of kitsch. But they made a comeback in 1972 following the debut of John Waters’, “Pink Flamingos” — a film that has really nothing to do with pink flamingos.

Photo by Flickr user Marcia Cirillo.

Photo by Flickr user Marcia Cirillo.

By the 1980s, Featherstone’s creation had evolved into an upper-class lawn accessory steeped in irony. As Smithsonian Magazine put it, the tchotchke became an elaborate “inside joke” that has been sold by the millions.

In a 1986 interview with People magazine, Featherstone said,“I’d be happy to be remembered as the man who did the pink flamingo.”