Jennings Osborne dies following long illness
The family of Jennings Osborne says the 67-year-old philanthropist has died from complications following heart surgery performed in April.
Osborne died at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at a Little Rock hospital.
Osborne had been hospitalized for 100 days, following surgery on April 18th. Doctors ordered the operation after Osborne suffered a stroke and heart attack in August of 2010.
"My father was an amazing man who all my life showed what a big heart he had for everyone, young and old and regardless of background or wealth," said Osborne's daughter, Breezy, in a statement. "Sadly my father's big heart finally gave out. But knowing my 'Dadoo', there will be fireworks at the gates of Heaven. We want to thank everyone from Arkansas and across the country for all their well wishes and prayers. It meant so much to my dad, me and my mom."
Known for his unmatched generosity and "random acts of kindness", Osborne made international news headlines in the early 1990s for a giant Christmas light display outside his Cantrell Road home in Little Rock. Sightseers came by the thousands.
Neighbors, angered by the bumper-to-bumper traffic caused by the display, filed suit against Osborne in a case that ended with a state supreme court ruling that called the display a nuisance.
Osborne went on to place his lights at the downtown River Market and arranged to provide holiday lights at Disney World and Graceland.
Osborne was also known for his elaborate holiday fireworks displays--and extravagant barbeque offerings at Razorback football pre-game events. Governor Mike Beebe issued a statement as word of Osborne's passing spread.
"With the passing of Jennings Osborne, Arkansas has lost one of our highest-profile philanthropists. He brought comfort and entertainment to countless people, whether feeding disaster victims, donating fireworks, throwing unparalleled tailgate parties or lighting up Disney World. While a larger-than-life public figure, Jennings was also a kind and soft-spoken man, who always shared his financial success with others."
"Jennings Osborne was a wonderful, generous man who brought joy to thousands with his kind deeds," Riverfest Executive Director DeAnna Korte said in a stetment. "For nearly 20 years Jennings and his family provided the fireworks for Riverfest's 250,000 festival goers. He and his family were a part of our Riverfest family. One of our favorite memories of Jennings was watching his face light up as people all around him clapped and shouted their appreciation when the fireworks were done. He will be sorely missed."
Osborne is survived by his wife, Mitzi, daughter Breezy Osborne-Wingfield, and son-in-law Tristan.
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