"It came on suddenly. He woke up one morning and he said, 'Honey, I don't feel good. I don't feel good at all.' And he was running a fever, throwing up so badly. And then the next day he started coughing badly," she said. "It's just so bad. It's just so tragic."
Wilhite's work is now immortalized in the millions of memes, jokes and posts shared worldwide daily. But that of course was not its original intention.
He created the format while working at CompuServe back in the 1980s as a way to transfer large images at a time when internet speeds were a fraction of a fraction of what they are today. The ability to animate them came later on.
"He invented GIF all by himself — he actually did that at home and brought it into work after he perfected it," Kathaleen told The Verge. "He would figure out everything privately in his head and then go to town programming it on the computer."
Wilhite received the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in 2013. In an interview with The New York Times that year, he revealed that the first ever GIF created was a picture of a plane — but his all time favorite was one of the OG memes of internet lore: the Dancing Baby.
While no-one can argue against the indelible mark the GIF has made on the web, many do about how it is pronounced.
Although much of the world uses a hard "G" (per the Graphics it stands for), according to the creator himself — it's actually pronounced "jif."
"The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations," he told the Times. "They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story."
Wilhite leaves behind 11 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
"He was an avid camper and loved travelling and camping," his obituary read. "Even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man."