Mario Segale, the namesake behind the famous mustachioed protagonist of Nintendo’s iconic video game franchise, has died at age 84.
Segale was born in Seattle in 1934 as the only child to his parents Louis and Rina Segale, both of whom were first-generation Italian immigrant farmers, according to his obituary. After graduating high school, he started his own successful construction company M.A. Segale, Inc. in Washington. Segale later sold the business after 45 years for $60 million to focus on his family’s real estate holdings under Segale Properties.
Segale managed commercial properties around Seattle, which would lead to his affiliation with the Japanese game and electronics company. Per Kotaku:
In 1981, Segale was renting a Tukwila warehouse to Nintendo of America. Shigeru Miyamoto had created the Mario character for his game Donkey Kong, but was calling him Jumpman and his girlfriend Lady. Nintendo wanted proper names for the characters, so they named the hero after their landlord and the lady Pauline after a Nintendo of America employee’s wife.
It was one event in particular that sparked the overalled plumber’s name, the New York Times wrote Friday, citing David Sheff’s Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World. Segale had reportedly entered the property of Nintendo of America to blast its then-president Minoru Arakawa for failing to pay rent on time. The interaction happened while the team was stuck on a name for Miyamoto’s character now known as Mario, but they had one by the time that Segale left.
Segale was reportedly a very private man. But after a lifetime of shunning the press, he did give a brief interview to the Seattle Times in 1993. Asked what he thought of his name being used for the iconic red-hatted Nintendo character, he responded: “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks.”
Segale died at a local hospital on Oct. 27. The specific cause of his death was not released, according to the New York Times. He is survived by his wife, to whom he was married for 62 years, as well as four children and nine grandchildren.
“While he was the inspiration for the name of Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario’ from when they were tenants in his business park in the 1970’s, he always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in his life,” his obituary reads. “Indeed, for generations of his family to come, and for the people who had a chance to know him well, his impact will remain ever present.”