(CNN) — Candlemaker Michael Kittredge II, who founded Yankee Candle as a teenager in his family home in 1969, has died, according to a spokesman.
Kittredge was 67.
He died Wednesday night at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston after a brief illness. He was surrounded by family and friends, spokesman Tim O’Brien said in a statement.
The company’s website says Kittredge started making candles at 16 because “he was too broke to buy his mother a Christmas present.” He melted some old crayons to make his first candle.
“A neighbor saw it and convinced Mike to sell the candle to her. With that small stake, he bought enough wax to make two candles — one for his mom, and another to sell. That was the birth of Yankee Candle,” the Yankee Candle website says.
The candles are available in more than 475 company-owned retail stores and more than 19,000 specialty stores in the United States. The company’s flagship store in Deerfield, Massachusetts, is a popular tourist destination.
Kittredge sold the company in 1998 and retired.
He loved to travel with friends and family, the statement said. He played in bands and recorded music throughout his life.
Kittredge got back in the candle business in 2010 when he helped his son start Kringle Candle.
He suffered a stroke in 2012 that limited his movement and speech, “but he characteristically battled back with courage and stamina,” the statement said.
“He switched from guitar to drums in his informal band, made extensive progress in regaining speech and took constant pride in his home and property,” the statement said. “Above all, Mike’s greatest passion was spending time with his children, playing games, watching their home videos, reviewing his son’s latest candle products and enjoying meals together.”
Kittredge was also known for his philanthropy.
He was a two-time cancer survivor and supported the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was on its board of directors for several years.
He also helped create Cooley-Dickinson Hospital’s Kittredge Surgical Center, Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Center, and the Kittredge Building at The Bement School in Deerfield.
Kittredge is survived by his son and two daughters. No funeral services are planned at this time.