His 90th birthday, in 2010, was cause for a weeklong celebration in Los Angeles.
"All I can do is teach people to fall in love," Bradbury told Time magazine that year. "My advice to them is, do what you love and love what you do. … If I can teach them that, I've done a great job."
Most Americans make their acquaintance with Bradbury in junior high, and there are many who revisit certain works for a lifetime, his books evoking their own season.
In an interview in the Onion, Bradbury chalked up his stories' relevance and resonance to this: "I deal in metaphors. All my stories are like the Greek and Roman myths, and the Egyptian myths, and the Old and New Testament.... If you write in metaphors, people can remember them.... I think that's why I'm in the schools."
Benford suggests something else—at once simple and seductive.
"Nostalgia is eternal. And Americans are often displaced from their origins and carry an anxious memory of it, of losing their origins. Bradbury reminds us of what we were and of what we could be," Benford said.
"Like most creative people, he was still a child, His stories tell us: Hold on to your childhood. You don't get another one. I don't think he ever put that away."
Bradbury is survived by his daughters Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury; and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marguerite, died in 2003.
FULL COVERAGE: Ray Bradbury's life and career
George is a former Times staff writer.