From the Wiggums to chain-smoking aunt Patty: the real-life Groening family behind The Simpsons revealed in obituary of creator's mum

A newspaper tribute to Matt Groening's mother Margaret, who died aged 94, reads like a Who's Who of the cartoonist's famous TV creation

Luke Blackall
Tuesday 07 May 2013 15:22

While the name Margaret Ruth Groening, who died at the end of April at the age of 94, might not ring immediate bells, her namesake Marge Simpson is one of the world’s most famous mothers.

Margaret was the mother of Matt Groening, the creator of hugely successful animated TV show, The Simpsons. And the obituary he wrote for her, which was published in The Oregonian this week, gave a number of hints as to the derivation for the names of characters on the show.

When he came to first pitch the programme in 1987, Matt says he drew upon his “idyllic” upbringing for inspiration.

Click here or on "View Images" for a gallery of Simpsons characters and their inspirations

“I basically drew my own family,” he told the Smithsonian magazine last year. “My father’s name is Homer. My mother’s name is Margaret. I have a sister Lisa and another sister Maggie, so I drew all of them. I was going to name the main character Matt, but I didn’t think it would go over well in a pitch meeting, so I changed the name to Bart.”

Matt has said he named the Simpson’s hometown of Springfield, after Springfield, Oregon (he grew up in Portland, Oregon) and even lived on Evergreen Terrace, the address of the TV family.

Before anyone gets too carried away with the similarities, however, Margaret was firm that they were similar in name alone.

“Well, we’re not alter egos,” Margaret was quoted as saying. “It’s just the family names.”

Obituary: Margaret Ruth Groening, 94, Born 23 March 1919 died 22 April 2013:

"Born Margaret Wiggum on March 23, 1919, in Chisolm, Minnesota, Margaret was 94 years old. Margaret's parents, Matt and Ingeborg Wiggum, met on the boat coming to America from Norway. They settled in Everett, Washington, where the paper mill "smelled like money," and Matt worked as a machinist. As high school valedictorian and Miss Everett, Margaret's highest honour was being named May Queen of Linfield College. She graduated from Linfield in 1941 and married classmate Homer Groening, whom she chose because he made her laugh the most. Margaret taught high school English before starting a family, and her love of language was apparent in the many Double-Crostics she completed (in ink). Margaret and Homer supported the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Trail Blazers and many local yarn shops (Margaret was a talented needlework artist). Besides Homer, Margaret was preceded in death by her oldest daughter, Patty, who died in January, 2013. She is survived by her brother, Arnold; her children, Mark, Matt, Lisa and Maggie; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. The family thanks the wonderful caregivers from Visiting Angels and the hospice nurses from Housecall Providers. Special appreciation also goes to loyal friend, Grace Clark."

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