DALLAS — Few broadcasters had a bigger impact on North Texas than Jerry Haynes, who has died at age 84.
He died Monday morning at a nursing facility in Longview from complications due to Parkinson's Disease with family at his side.
"I helped raise families you know," Haynes said in a 2008 interview with News 8. "So, I was in people's living rooms every day as they were getting dressed and eating their cereal. So I'm a buddy. They saw me. I didn't see them."
But the public man also had a private life, his children remembered.
"As a very very young child, his father took his own life," said Gibby Haynes, 53, Jerry's oldest son. "He grew up with a single mom who had five children in Plano, Texas."
"I played Frank Sinatra for him yesterday on my iPhone and he smiled," said Andrew Haynes, 40, Jerry's youngest son.
Haynes didn't leave instructions on where he wanted to be buried, his daughter said.
"He said, 'Surprise me,'" said Carla Mann, 55, Haynes' daughter, with a chuckle.
For an astounding 35 years, Haynes' iconic "Mr. Peppermint" character enthralled children and their parents. He led the longest running locally-produced show in WFAA's history, with more than 6,000 episodes.
Haynes was also an accomplished character actor who appeared in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Places in the Heart," "Robo Cop" and "Boys Don't Cry." He starred in a variety of TV movies and shows as well, among them: "Dallas" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."
Haynes began his career as a program announcer, then hosted variety and teen dance shows in the 1950s, including "Dallas Bandstand." He filled in for the legendary Dick Clark on his "American Bandstand" network program.
Haynes was an eyewitness to history. He was present at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
He dashed four blocks to the WFAA studio to be among the first to describe the scene to incredulous viewers.
"I ran back as quick as I could," Haynes said in a 2008 interview. "I was 34 years old, so I was a sprinter. [On the way] I heard a lady say 'Oh my Lord, they killed him!.'"
It was more than two years earlier that he began the show that would make him a household name in North Texas.
"It turned into a career because I would have been long gone a long time ago," he said during a Mr. Peppermint tribute on "Good Morning Texas."
Through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, generations of Texas children grew up watching Mr. Peppermint and his gang of sidekicks, especially Muffin, the beloved puppet creation of sidekick Vern Dailey.
Always wearing his red-and-white suit, straw hat and carrying a candy-striped cane (an idea he borrowed from "The Music Man"), Haynes bridged the times from black-and-white to color to special effects.
But in the mid-90s, as children's shows faded to video games and the Internet, and with Haynes approaching age 70, Mr. Peppermint hung up the familiar hat and cane in a TV special marking his retirement.
"One of my family's favorite places to travel has been 'Peppermint Place,'" said then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a tribute broadcast during the retirement special.
Doctors diagnosed Haynes with Parkinson's disease in 2008 and he slipped from public eye.
But he'll never be far from the minds of his millions of fans, young and old.
"I want to remind you: Sometimes things don't go too well and you're not feeling a real good mood," Mr. Peppermint reminded his young viewers. "When you feel unhappy, nothing seems worthwhile. Just give yourself a peppermint grin, and you will wear a smile."