Video game fans know Mario as the star of Nintendo's most successful franchise. But what they may not know is that he was named after Mario Segale, an Italian-American property developer from Washington state. The BBC reports that Segale has died at age 84.
The original Mario crossed paths with Nintendo in the 1980s, when he leased a warehouse to the American outpost of the Japanese gaming company. The character Mario originally appeared as jumpman in Donkey Kong, and when Nintendo was looking to give him a new name, the employees at Nintendo of America took inspiration from their landlord.
Even after learning that the video game character had borrowed his name—and his Italian heritage—Segale didn't use it as a claim to fame. In fact, he feared that his connection to Mario might damage his reputation and hurt his career. One of the few times he commented on it publicly was in a 1993 article in The Seattle Times. When asked what he thought of sharing a name with the character, he replied, “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks.”
During his life, Segale lead a successful construction and real estate business, and enjoyed hunting, fishing, and flying his airplane in his free time. He is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren, and his wife, Donna.