Sad news for the millions of former kids who learned about messy rooms and those awful gimmes from the Berenstain Bears: Co-creator Jan Berenstain died on Friday in Solebury, Pa., at the age of 88. Her son told the AP that she suffered a severe stroke the day prior. Jan, along with husband Stan, wrote and illustrated the series, which now numbers some 300 titles in 23 languages. The first book, The Big Honey Hunt, came out in 1962. What followed were books that zero in on children's concerns and offer gentle guidance. "They say jokes don't travel well, but family humor does," Jan told the AP in 2011. "Family values is what we're all about."
Jan's own life had a sweet start: She met fellow Philadelphia native Stan at age 18, on their first day at art school in 1941. The two created books together until Stan's death in 2005 at the age of 82; some 260 million have been sold to date. "It's wonderful to do something you love for so many years," reflected Jan. "Not everyone has that." Son Mike, a collaborator in recent years, will carry on the series. "Every day she was very productive," he said. "She was working on two books and had been doing illustrations until the day before she passed away." (Read more obituary stories.)