Why the inspiration for Lucy from ‘Peanuts’ was bittersweet about her fame

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Photo: Lucy from
This statue of Lucy is in Snoopy's Gallery gift store in Santa Rosa, California.

As a young woman in Colorado Springs, after her husband, Philip, got back from World War I, Louanne Van Pelt made a famous friend, and in a way became famous herself.

Charles Schulz was also a war veteran, and he and his wife sometimes played bridge with the Van Pelts. Around that time Schulz was honing his "Peanuts" comic strip and its cast of characters, led by Charlie Brown. And that's how Louanne Van Pelt influenced the character of Lucy, according to her son, David Merrill.

"As I hear it, [Schulz] would pull out a notepad and make notations about something my mother would say or do," says Merrill. "He was just kind of amazed my mom was a very eccentric and interesting character herself."

Louanne Van Pelt died April 6, leaving behind three children and several grandchildren. Schulz died in 2000.

Of all the Peanuts characters, Lucy is perhaps the strongest personality, a know-it-all who hands out advice in her front-yard psychiatrists' booth. For that reason, Merrill says his mom did not always enjoy the comparison.

"The 'Peanuts," I think, is something she actually felt bittersweet with... She wasn't very flattered, I believe, with the character that Charles Schulz withdrew from her actual personality. The narcissistic, kind of cruel, if she was always yanking that football from poor Charlie Brown's foot, making him land on his head all the time," Merrill says.

"But she learned to live with it and was very pleasant about it just the same."