Though Maurice Sendak is best known for creating a child's fantasyland replete with wild forests and frightening monsters, the author and illustrator was also tuned in to the hardships real-life kids face.
The creator of the beloved "Where the Wild Things Are" died Wednesday at 83 after suffering a stroke, leaving behind a quiet legacy of giving to needy families.
Without much fanfare, the author -- known for his curmudgeonly public persona -- gave $1 million in 2010 to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, the Wall Street Journal reported. The mental-health and social services agency provides services to New York's needy families.
Sendak gave the gift in honor of his partner, Eugene D. Glynn, a psychiatrist, who died in 2007 after working for 30 years for the agency.
"Leading a selfish life is unbearable…what Eugene did to save lives, I am trying to do artistically," Sendak told the Wall Street Journal. "You can't memorialize someone like Eugene, there are few people like him in the world with his heart and social consciousness…all I'm doing is contributing to something he would have wanted to do."
Sendak didn't do much to publicize his million-dollar gift. Thom Hamill, the social agency's director of development and philanthropy, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy the author was a private person:
“It wasn’t about his ego; it wasn’t about his name.”
Since the 1960s, Sendak had also been donating his books and illustrations to Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum and Library. The author, who won a Caldecott Medal for "Where the Wild Things Are" in 1964, was on the board of directors.
Museum director Derick Dreher told CBS he'll simply remember Sendak for his kind heart:
“For those people lucky enough to get to know him personally, they would all say he was the greatest friend anybody could have,” Dreher told the news station. “He was a very kind host, a great conversationalist who wanted to know all about you. He was just a dear and loving person.”
PHOTOS: Maurice Sendak through the years:
Maurice Sendak, artist, writer illustrator, set designer and costumer, is shown June 16, 1981.
In this Sept. 25, 1985 photo, Sendak poses with one of the characters from his book "Where the Wild Things Are," designed for the operatic adaptation of his book in St. Paul, Minn.
Sendak checks proofs of art for a major advertising campaign in his Ridgefield, Conn., home in Oct. 1988.
Sendak signs his individual prints from the "The Mother Goose Collection," July 26, 1990 in New York.
Sendak points to elements of the witch's house he designed for the PBS production of "Hansel und Gretel" at New York's Juillard School, Dec. 2, 1997.
Sendak is surprised by Michael Swinney, the chairman of Sony Development, during a party celebrating the opening of the Sony Metreon entertainment complex in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 15, 1999. The building includes movie theaters, an Imax theater, and a "Where the Wild Things Are," interactive play space.
Maurice Sendak is greeted by actresses Catherine Keener, left, and Lauren Ambrose, right, at the the New York premiere of the film Where the Wild Things Are, Tuesday, Oct., 13, 2009.
Maurice Sendak, left, film director Spike Jonze, center, and actor Max Records, right, arrive to the New York premiere of the film "Where the Wild Things Are", Tuesday, Oct., 13, 2009.
Sendak on 'taking the dive' into inspiration. "I don't not believe that I have ever written a children's book," he says. "It's a lie." The author also discusses his love of William Blake. "I believe in his passion," he says.