Jerry Maren, the last surviving member of the group of actors who portrayed the munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz," has died, his niece and a California medical examiner's office confirmed to CBS News. He was 98.
Maren died in San Diego on May 24, according to his niece, Stacy Michelle Barrington of Mobile, Alabama. The actor died of cardiopulmonary failure, said Azita Safarloo, a spokesperson for the San Diego medical examiner's office. TMZfirst reported his death.
Maren was the munchkin who handed Judy Garland's Dorothy a lollipop in the 1939 classic, said Marc Baum, who sits on the board of trustees for the International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation in Chittenango, New York. L. Frank Baum wrote the fairy tale "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
"That was a part of American culture," Marc Baum said of the film.
Maren would travel to the foundation's annual Oz-stravaganza held in June and play a hole of golf with donors to raise money, Baum said. The actor stopped going to the festival a few years ago.
"He enjoyed meeting people, and ... he enjoyed golfing with people and kind of reliving that moment," he said.
Baum said Maren would be thrilled to meet fans wherever he went, a sentiment echoed by his niece.
"Uncle Jerry loved his fans tremendously," Barrington said, "and he appreciated them."