He was 79.
"Donald's wife, Nancy, contacted us yesterday to say that Donald had passed away," said Zarozny, whose company now sells the iconic pink flamingos. "I met both of them quite a few times, and Donald was just a very, very nice man -- very creative and a nice person."
Nancy Featherstone told the Sentinel & Enterprise
that her husband had a lengthy battle with Lewy body dementia. He got sick years ago, but things got more difficult about two years ago.
"It's a terrible disease," she said. "You can't do anything about it. But he fought it. He fought it to the best of his ability. He died with dignity."
"Donald was a class act," Nancy Featherstone said, adding that her husband died peacefully Monday morning
surrounded by family. "He was just a super-nice man. Just a super-nice man."
In addition to his wife, he's survived by two children, Judith Nelson and Harold Featherstone.
Featherstone died one day before National Pink Flamingo Day, a day created in his honor in 2007 by Dean Mazzarella, mayor of Leominster, Massachusetts, to honor the 50th anniversary of the plastic flamingo's creation in his town.
An art school graduate, Featherstone created the pink flamingo in 1957 as part of his job at Union Products in Leominster. Eventually, he became president of the company, from which he retired in 2000.
Union Products stopped making pink flamingos in 2005 and went out of business shortly thereafter, which could have been the end of the plastic bird. But Cado Co. acquired the rights to manufacture Union Products in 2010
, and the bird lived. (Look for Featherstone's signature on the bird to know you're getting the real deal.)
"Here in Leominster, it's Pink Flamingo Day every day," Mazzarella told Boston magazine
after hearing of Featherstone's passing. "But it's just kind of ironic how within a day of his passing, it just so happens to be. He'd be thrilled."
Though the 1960s saw a rejection of all things parental and plastic in favor of classier lawn decor, the 1970s welcomed back bad taste and schlock. When John Waters' movie "Pink Flamingos" came out in 1972, the uncool bird was cool again.
In 1987, the governor of Massachusetts proclaimed the Massachusetts-born plastic bird "an essential contribution to American folk art," wrote historian Jennifer Price in her book "Flight Maps," which has a chapter on the flamingo. By 1998, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art was selling plastic pink flamingos for $19. The 2011 Disney film "Gnomeo & Juliet"
had a pink flamingo character named "Featherstone."
Flamingos still dot contemporary lawns across America, and there's even a word for surprise plantings of the birds in the middle of the night: You've been "flocked."
Featherstone won an Ig Nobel Prize for his creation in 1996. Improbable Research administers the award for achievements "that make people laugh, and then think."