NEW YORK (PIX11) – Ralph Lee, a puppet and mask maker who founded the Village Halloween Parade in New York City 50 years ago, has died at age 87. 

Lee passed away at his home in New York City on May 12 following a long illness, according to a press release.

Lee directed the first Village Halloween Parade in 1974. The parade was conceived as a theatrical event featuring masked performers, giant puppets and musicians all marching through Greenwich Village in Manhattan. 

Lee directed the Village Halloween Parade for 12 years before stepping away. The popular parade continues today and still features the same creative elements as when it started.

Lee was also known for his work as artistic director of the Mettawee River Theatre Company, where he helped produce plays based on creation myths, trickster tales, legends and folklore from different world cultures.

“Each summer Mettawee operated from a farmhouse in Salem, NY, and toured with outdoor performances in upstate New York and New England, traveling to rural communities with limited exposure to live theater,” the press release said.

Throughout his career, Lee created masks, puppets and large-scale figures for many theater and dance companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York City Ballet, the Living Theater, ventriloquist Shari Lewis, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare & Company and La MaMa.

Lee is also known for designing and building the Land Shark character for Saturday Night Live.

Lee also acted on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional theaters.