September 29, 2011 / 3:50 PM / 8 years ago

Belgium's "Mr Penguin" dreams of Antarctic funeral

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian pensioner Alfred David dreams one day he’ll find eternal rest in the icy waters somewhere near Antarctica, dressed in his penguin suit and laid out in a coffin decorated with penguins.

Alfred David, a 79-year-old Belgian man nicknamed "Monsieur Pingouin" (Mr. Penguin), dressed in his favourite hooded black and white penguin suit, talks with neighbours near his home in Brussels September 28, 2011. The ultimate dream of senior Brussels resident Alfred David is to be buried in a coffin decorated with penguins, with his body dressed in a penguin suit, somewhere near Antarctica. Picture taken September 28, 2011 REUTERS/Yves Herman

The 79-year-old “Monsieur Pingouin” (Mr Penguin), as he is known to locals in his Brussels neighborhood, dons his favorite hooded black-and-white penguin costume as he looks back at more than 40 years of obsession.

“My ultimate dream is to be buried in a deep ocean close to where penguins live,” David told Reuters.

David’s life changed in May 1968 when his hip was injured in a car accident. His resulting limp was characterized by his colleagues as a waddle, and they dubbed him Mr Penguin.

As a consequence he embraced an interest in the flightless sea bird and began collecting everything he could find that had a link with the animal.

As his obsession grew, he eventually set up a museum in his home displayed some 3,500 items of penguin memorabilia.

His wife showed him and his collection the door when he told her he wanted to officially change his name to Mr Penguin.

David later donated his penguin collection — which ranged from penguin lavatory paper to cups and toys — to a local soccer team to raise money for the club.

Proud of the international media interest he has attracted to the penguin cause, David has appeared on dozens of TV shows over the years and was invited as a special guest to the 1992 Amsterdam premiere of Batman Returns — which featured Danny DeVito as the hero’s nemesis “The Penguin.”

In an era of movies such as “Happy Feet,” “March of the Penguins” and “Mr Popper’s Penguins,” television spots are rarer for him nowadays.

He is still well-known in the streets of Schaerbeek, the Brussels district where he lives and where the burghers greet him: “How are you today Monsieur Pingouin?”

Taking a glass of red wine between his penguin-suit wings, David said he still needed to use his thumbs after all these years to make sure he does not spill.

Writing By Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Rex Merrifield and Paul Casciato

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