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Twister co-inventor's goal was to incite fun at social gatherings

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota man whose Twister game initiated decades of awkward social interactions at parties has died. He was 82.

Charles “Chuck” Foley passed away July 1 at a care facility in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. His son, Mark Foley, said Thursday that his father had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Foley and a collaborator, Neil Rabens, were hired in the mid-1960s by a St. Paul manufacturing firm that wanted to expand into games and toys. They came up with a game to be played on a mat on the floor, using a spinner to direct players to place their hands and feet on different colored circles.

“Dad wanted to make a game that could light up a party,” Mark Foley said. “They originally called it ‘Pretzel.' But they sold it to Milton Bradley, which came up with the ‘Twister' name.”

The game became a sensation after Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played it on “The Tonight Show” in 1966.

Hasbro Inc., which now manufacturers the game, said it continues to be a top seller.

“What makes the Twister game timeless is the fact that it's always been about showing off your free spirit and just having some laugh-out-loud, out of your seat fun,” Hasbro Inc. said in a statement noting Foley's death.

Mark Foley said his father made little money from Twister, but that it never seemed to bother him much. The game was not his first invention, and far from his last.

Born in Lafayette, Ind., Foley's first invention came at the age of 8 — a locking system for the cattle pen at his grandfather's farm. As a young man he worked as a salesman, but his interest in games and toys led him to apply for a job at a toy company in the Minneapolis area. He moved his family to Minnesota in 1962.

Over the years, Foley invented dozens of other toys and games. He invented a product called un-du, a liquid adhesive remover.

Mark Foley is president of un-du Products Inc., based in St. Louis Park. Chuck Foley had lived in North Carolina for a number of years, but his son said he returned to Minnesota six years ago when his health began to decline, to be closer to his family. Foley and his wife, Kathleen, had nine children. She died of breast cancer in 1975, and Foley never remarried.

“He never stopped having fun,” Mark Foley said. “He tried to think like young people though. He never wanted to grow up, and he always maintained his enthusiasm for seeing things through the eyes of a child.”

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