John Cherry, the creator of the “Ernest” character has passed away, WSMV4 reports. He was 73-years-old.
Cherry’s passing was announced on Sunday in a Facebook post from the official account of Ernest P. Worrell. The post was written by Melissa Laster, the administrator of the account.
“Unfortunately, I have some devastating news to share with you all,” the post reads. “Our beloved John Cherry passed away this morning after a long and well-fought battle with Parkinson’s disease.”
Cherry was the “Cherry” in the Nashville-based Carden and Cherry advertising agency. Cherry created and developed the Ernest character for this agency.
The character itself was portrayed by the late actor Jim Varney for a span of 15 years. At the start, Ernest was only used in advertisements. But, after gaining popularity, the character was featured in a number of films.
WSMV4 details the progression, writing:
According to [Cherry’s] book [Keeper of the CLown: My Life With Ernest], he created Ernest to promote an event at a Kentucky amusement park. The popularity grew after the airing and was picked up by regional big names such as Purity Dairies, based in Nashville. He was a staple in Purity commercials throughout the 1980s and eventually hit the big screen.
It is hard to imagine that anyone could portray Ernest better than Varney. So, it is only fitting that the Ernest character was retired as Varney succumbed to lung cancer in 2000.
Laster, in the Facebook post, describes Cherry, who was referred to as “Buster” by his friends, as “kind, amazingly funny, [and] generous” with “a heart of gold.”
Laster goes on to reveal how much “Ernest Days,” when Cherry would meet with Ernest fans, meant to Cherry.
I want you all to know how much he loved hearing from you and seeing your love of Ernest. Those of you who came out to meet him at Ernest Day, often bringing your children with you and telling him how you introduced your kids to Ernest and how they now love the movies too…it truly made his day. I will never forget the joy in his eyes after that first Ernest Day. You truly have no idea how much hearing those stories and seeing the love you still all have for his creations meant to him.
“Thank you so much for loving Ernest and bringing Buster so much joy over the years, especially in these last several years that have been so difficult for him,” Laster added. “You truly brought him insurmountable joy in some of his darkest moments.”
Cherry is survived by his wife, Ruthie, and his three children, Josh, Emilie, and Chapman.