Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the wildly popular 1970s fad the Pet Rock, has died at age 78 in Oregon.
Dahl's wife, Marguerite Dahl, confirmed Tuesday that her husband of 40 years died March 23 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The smooth stones came packed in a cardboard box containing a tongue-in-cheek instruction pamphlet for "care and feeding." Dahl estimated he had sold 1.5 million of them at roughly $4 each by the time the fad fizzled. The Pet Rock required no work and no time commitment.
Born December 18, 1936, in North Dakota, he was an advertising executive in California when he came up with the Pet Rock idea in 1975.
Dahl also penned "Advertising for Dummies."
The Pet Rock craze "was great fun when it happened,'' his wife recalled in a telephone interview. Over time, however, "people would come to him with weird ideas, expecting him to do for them what he had done for himself. And a lot of times they were really, really stupid ideas."
By 1988, Dahl told The Associated Press he had avoided interviews for years because of what he called "a bunch of wackos" appearing out of nowhere with threats and lawsuits.
Of the little rock that became a household word, he said, "Sometimes I look back and wonder if my life wouldn't have been simpler if I hadn't done it."
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, Candace Dahl of Spokane; daughters Chris Nunez and Samantha Leighton; son Eric Dahl; stepdaughter Vicki Pershing and grandchildren.
Dahl and his wife were avid sailors on San Francisco Bay, where she plans to sprinkle his ashes in May.