Jean Shepherd, who spun tales on the radio and who co-scripted and narrated the 1983 comedy “A Christmas Story” based on his novel, died Oct. 16 of natural causes in Sanibel Island, Fla. He was 78.
Shepherd, worked at Gotham’s WOR-AM for 21 years, told stories about characters from his Indiana childhood such as his alter ego, Ralph Parker, and his neighbors, the Bumpuses. Working without a script, Shepherd’s storytelling style was often likened to Mark Twain’s.
Along with radio work, he hosted two PBS travel programs, “Jean Shepherd’s America” and “Shepherd’s Pie.” “Christmas Story,” based on his “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” became a cult hit, but a followup 11 years later, “It Runs in My Family,” was not as successful.
He also contributed articles to Playboy and Car & Driver.
Shepherd began his radio career at the age of 16 as a weekly sportscaster for a station in Hammond, Ind. He went on to land network radio roles, including the part of Billy Fairchild in the serial “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy.”
After serving in the Army Signal Corps. during World War II, Shepherd continued with a series of radio jobs.
Before beginning his stint at WOR-AM, he was noticed by “Tonight Show” host Steve Allen. Though Allen recommended Shepherd to be his replacement, NBC did not hire him.
There were no immediate family survivors.