Larry Harmon by Amy Graves/ Larry Harmon by Amy Graves/

Larry Harmon, the premier (if not very first) portrayer of Bozo the Clown, died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.

Harmon was not the original Bozo, but portrayed the popular clown for more than 50 years and, after buying the rights to the character, licensed it out, namely to numerous television stations around the country. The Chicago version of Bozo, for one, ran on WGN-TV in Chicago for 40 years, and famously sold five years' worth of audience tickets in five hours.

"He was the most optimistic man I ever met," Harmon's wife of 29 years, Susan, tells the AP. "He always saw a bright side; he always had something good to say about everybody. He was the love of my life." - Matt Mitovich