Farewell, Cathy: Sarasota parents of the creator of comic strip reflect

Bradenton Herald – Retired Sarasota couple William and Ann Guisewite aren’t ashamed to admit that reading the comics is one of the highlights of their day.

“When I open the morning paper, the first thing I look at is the funnies,” said Ann Guisewite. “And the first thing I read in the funnies is ‘Cathy.’”

But that ritual will end after Oct. 3, when “Cathy” — the couple’s favorite comic strip, which just happens to be written by their daughter Cathy Guisewite — comes to an end.

Reading the funnies just won’t be the same.

“I love the surprises she gives me when I open the paper,” Ann Guisewite said. “I’m going to miss that, but at the same time Cathy has lived under deadline pressure — she’s lived with it for 34 years.”

Which is why her daughter has decided to end the popular four-panel strip featuring the misadventures of her namesake, which has entertained America since 1976. The 60-year-old cartoonist hopes to spend more time with her family, especially since her own daughter is entering her senior year of high school.

Those looming deadlines will disappear like a magical cartoon cloud when “Cathy” runs for the last time Oct. 3 in 700 daily and Sunday newspapers across the country.

The award-winning cartoon has been the epic journey of a character who has become somewhat of an idol to single women over the years. The cartooned Cathy, like them, has struggled with dating, her mom, her weight, her guilt and her addiction to shopping.

Her parents will miss it, but they hope the comic strip’s retirement will allow their daughter to visit them in Sarasota more often.

“I’m thrilled that she finally decided to give it up,” her father says. “That was a hard decision, but we figured she’s created roughly 12,000 comic strips with those deadlines over the years.”

Ann Guisewite has clipped 34 years’ worth of “Cathy” comics from the newspaper, with a book for each year.

Asked if she has ever seen herself portrayed in Anne Andrews — Cathy’s mom in the cartoon — Ann Guisewite couldn’t help but laugh.

“Of course,” she said. “Moms think in certain ways.”

William Guisewite thinks Anne Andrews is “terrific.”

“She’s one of the main character in the strip that’s in it all the time,” he said. “The strip shows a great mother and daughter relationship. I like the development of that. It’s been super. It defines the strip in so many ways.”

Ann Guisewite says their daughter has always loved to write. Cathy initially followed her parents’ footsteps, becoming a writer for an advertising agency. She was so good at her job that she was promoted to vice president of an agency in Detroit, Mich., at “a very early age,” her mom said.

Around this time, she began sending her parents stick-figure communiques featuring her frustrations with diets, office life and relationships. Her mom convinced her to send a packet of the work to Universal Press Syndicate. They responded by sending her a contract.

“They said they loved the emotional honesty of my submission and that they were confident I’d learn how to draw if I had to do it 365 days a year,” Cathy Guisewite said.

When Cathy told her parents she was going to start writing a successful comic strip, they were overjoyed, but they didn’t realize all the hard work and deadlines their daughter would be facing. When she visited them in Sarasota, she brought work with her. It was non-stop.

But her work ethic and the ability to poke fun at single life, bringing smiles to the world seems to have been worth it. It’s made “Cathy” a household name.

And no one will miss seeing that name in print more than her parents.

“It’s always been a great experience for us,” said William Guisewite. “We’ve always been proud of what she’s done and continues to do.”

— This report contains material from the Los Angeles Times.

published Sept. 26, 2010

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