66th Venice International Film Festival - Close up of American Director Georges Romero In Venice, Italy On September 09, 2009 -
Credit: Pool CATARINA/VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

George A. Romero, the legendary director of horror classics such as Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead, has died at 77 after a brief, but aggressive battle with lung cancer, his manager Chris Roe confirmed Sunday via a family statement.

The famous zombie film creator passed away peacefully in his sleep, with his wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero and daughter Tina Romero by his side, as the score of his favorite film, The Quiet Man, played.

“He leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time,” said his family in a statement.

Romero is known as the father of the zombie genre, having produced several films within it, beginning with 1968’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead, which he directed himself (and co-wrote with John Russo), followed by 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 1990’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead, and 2009’s Survival of the Dead. Each successive film followed the evolution of a U.S.-set epidemic that turned carriers into zombies (a.k.a. the “living dead”), and chronicled the various ways in which humankind attempted to deal with it.

His other, non-zombie filled work included producing the anthology horror show Tales from the Darkside, as well as directing the horror films The Crazies, Martin, Monkey Shines, The Dark Half, and the horror anthology Creepshow (which featured a screenplay by noted horror writer Stephen King).

Romero, a Bronx-born, Cuban and Lithuanian American filmmaker, was a big film buff from a young age, even riding the train into Manhattan as a kid so that he could rent film reels to watch at home. Later, he attended Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University in 1960, after which he took on commercial film work, including shooting short segments for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, including one that saw Mr. Rogers undergo a tonsillectomy at the hospital (fittingly titled “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy”).

Romero’s films have impacted a whole generation of filmmakers, not only in terms of his directing style but also with how far ahead of their time, many of the themes he explored in these films were. His films also featured inclusive casting at a time when no other films really did.