Stephen Willheit, creator of GIFs, dies at 74

Stephen Earl Wellheit was born in West Chester, Ohio on March 3, 1948. His father, Clarence Earl Wellheit, was a factory worker. His mother, Anna Lou (Dorsey) Welheit, was a nurse.

Later in his life, Mr. Wellheit’s wife said, he recorded the history of his invention in a three-page document that he shared with his children and grandchildren.

Ms. Wellheit said, when one of his granddaughters, Kylie, told her computer teacher that her grandfather had invented the GIF, the teacher didn’t believe her. This prompted Mr. Welleight to write a letter to the teacher to confirm the story. Then Steve Welheit signed it up, and said, ‘Google it,’

Mr. Welheit retired at the age of 51 after suffering a stroke, but he has remained busy using computer programming skills to augment his model railroad. His wife said that this hobby was supposed to have been confined to his basement, but had spread to other rooms, as Mr. Welleight had built model train bridges in his upstairs office.

Ms Welheit said her husband also loves to spend time outdoors, and that they went on several camping trips with her son Rick, who she said was one of Mr. Welheit’s “best friends”.

She said they traveled from their home in Milford, Ohio, to the tip of Florida and the Grand Canyon. “Steve likes the pines up north, and I like the ocean, so he gave us plenty of space.”

The couple married in 2010, when they were both in their 60s. Ms. Wilhite said that their first date was at Cracker Barrel a year before they got married.

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