Mario Segale, Inspiration for Nintendo’s Namesake Character and Mascot, Has Passed Away

He was a real estate developer, child of Italian immigrants — and the inspiration for Super Mario of 'Donkey Kong'

Image Credit: Shutterstock / @benjedwards, Twitter

Mario A. Segale, an American real estate developer character from Tukwila, Washington, and the namesake for Nintendo’s iconic, beloved and overalls-wearing plumber, has died, as noted by The Auburn Reporter and other outlets.

The son of first-generation Italian immigrant farmers, Segale was 84 (shown above) when he passed away on Saturday morning, surrounded by family.

Segale “created a remarkable legacy” with “sheer determination and unbelievable self-taught business acumen,” said his obituary.

As befits his long-reported penchant for privacy, Segale’s cause of death is thus far undisclosed.

As video game enthusiasts are aware, Segale provided the inspiration for legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation of Super Mario for the 1981 “Donkey Kong” arcade game, Technologizer explained.

Though he was Italian, not very tall, wore suspenders, and liked the color red, Segale was not a plumber — nor did he have a brother by the name of Luigi.

Do you support individual military members being able to opt out of getting the COVID vaccine?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

As the story goes and as his obituary supports, Segale’s inspiration for Super Mario arose by chance.

The “Donkey Kong” character initially known only as Jumpman took on the name of Mario by means of reportedly strained — at least temporarily — tenant/landlord relationship.

Segale rented space to Nintendo’s offices in his business park in the 1970s, NPR explained.

Legend has it that Segale left an impression on his tenants when he “stormed into Nintendo’s offices in Tukwila, Washington, demanding they catch up on late rent.”

Segale’s legacy is that of a self-made person who achieved the American dream.

The second-generation immigrant started his construction company with “one bulldozer and unshakeable determination” after he graduated from high school in the early 50s, as detailed in The Auburn Reporter.

His extensive real estate holdings included warehouses, a shopping center, gravel pits, and the land upon which Emerald Downs Racetrack & Casino now sits. The casino land alone sold for $73.6 million in 1996, the outlet reported.

A former mayor of nearby Auburn, Washington, Pete Lewis, told The Auburn Reporter that Mario was “a very visionary person” who was “intensively private and generous.”

Segale and family were reportedly major political donors to the Democratic Party.

Of his association with the Nintendo character, his obituary noted that “he always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in life.”

Funeral services for Segale will be private, and the family requested donations be sent to Catholic Community Services of King County, Fred Hutch Cancer Research, or another local charity in lieu of flowers.

Segale, an only child, is survived by his wife Donna to whom he was married for 62 years, four children, and nine grandchildren.

Watch this video:

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.

Join the Discussion

COMMENTS POLICY: We have no tolerance for messages of violence, racism, vulgarity, obscenity or other such discourteous behavior. Thank you for contributing to a respectful and useful online dialogue.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments