(CBS) — Chicago is grieving the loss of Sheldon Patinkin, a developmental figure in the world of improv in the city.

“In the entertainment industry in Chicago this sort of wall of death has hit us in really the last 10 days,” said Chicago Tribune and CBS 2 theatre critic Chris Jones.

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Jones says Sheldon Patinkin, the man who led numerous generations of comedians to stardom died at the age of 79.

“He worked with people like Mike Nichols and Elaine May and Ed Asner and Valerie Harper and that first generation of innovators who really formulated what we think of as Second City and sketch comedy in Chicago,” Jones said.

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Patinkin was an original member of the 1950’s Playwright’s Theatre Club and was associated with numerous Chicago theaters, including Second City and Steppenwolf.

Jones says Sheldon Patinkin will be sorely missed.

“I think more than anything Sheldon had heart,” Jones said. “He was a warm-hearted man and we think of the comedy world and the business as mercurial and kind of cold and competitive and Patinkin had none of that.”

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In a statement on Second City’s website, CEO and Executive Producer Andrew Alexander said, “We are heartbroken to learn of the sudden death of Sheldon Patinkin. Beginning as a bar manager at The Second City in 1959, Sheldon became our artistic conscience as director and artistic consultant. He has worked with Second City casts and directors for the past 55 years; most recently giving notes and consulting on The Second City e.t.c.’s “Apes of Wrath.” His work expanded beyond The Second City and he became a prolific director and educator. He was a beloved mentor to thousands. His legacy is exponential and we are so proud to have also called him a friend.”