01/14/1998 AT 12:00 AM EST

Jean Shepherd, 78, prolific radio raconteur whose storytelling style earned him comparisons to fellow Midwesterner Mark Twain, Saturday, in New York. Shepherd spent 21 years on WOR-AM in New York City, attracting a large, loyal following along the Eastern seaboard. He improvised, conjuring up tales based on his Indiana upbringing, creating characters like his alter-ego, Ralph Parker, and his neighbors, the Bumpuses. Shepard also wrote the story on which the 1983 movie classic "A Christmas Story" was based.

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