Theodore R. Belland, 93, a freelance cartoonist who chronicled the labor movement in union publications, died Sept. 27 at his home in Silver Spring.
He had renal failure, said his daughter, Margaret Belland.
Mr. Belland became interested in cartooning at 5 when he won a Barnum and Bailey-sponsored contest to draw a clown. His prize was tickets to the circus and, even at such a young age, Mr. Belland realized he’d found his future career.
Mr. Belland studied at the Corcoran School of Art and began his cartooning career in earnest during service with the Army Air Forces during World War II. While he was training to become a pilot in Texas, Mr. Belland’s cartoons were published in a local newspaper and in military publications.
After the war, Mr. Belland’s cartoons were distributed through the Washington-based Press Associates and were featured in union publications and newsletters for labor groups such as the International Union of Electrical Workers. He retired from cartooning in 2010.
In the 1960s, Mr. Belland applied for an opening with the McDonald’s fast-food chain entertaining children in Washington. When he showed up for the interview, his family said, Mr. Belland came upon a roomful of clowns.
Despite the fact that Mr. Belland was not dressed for the part, he got the job of portraying Ronald McDonald because the interviewers saw him as a “blank slate,” his family said.
Donning the Ronald McDonald makeup and red wig, Mr. Belland acted in television commercials and made appearances at local McDonald’s restaurants.
Theodore Richard Belland was born in Portland, Maine, and raised in Hyattsville, where he was a 1935 graduate of Hyattsville High School.
His first marriage, to Jane Belland, ended in divorce. His second wife, Suzanne Tucker Belland, died in 1985 after 38 years of marriage.
Survivors include two children from his second marriage, Theodore W. Belland of Silver Spring and Margaret Belland of Silver Spring; a grandson; and two great-grandsons.
— T. Rees Shapiro