An iconic symbol of many Millennials' childhoods is now gone: Simon Shelton, one of the men who played the purple-clad Tinky Winky on British kids show "Teletubbies," has died.

Shelton, also known by the name Simon Barnes, passed away "suddenly" on January 17 in Bedfordshire, England, according to a statement from his niece, actress Emily Atack ("The Inbetweeners"). Atack paid tribute to her "wonderful uncle" in a post on Instagram.

"The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet," the actress said of Shelton. "Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever."

Shelton, a trained ballet dancer and choreographer, took over the role on the BBC series -- which later aired in the United States on PBS -- from comedian Dave Thompson in 1997. Tinky Winky caused a bit of an uproar at the time, thanks to speculation that the purse-carrying character was gay.

The actor's son, Henry, shared in a Facebook post that he was proud of his father, who he called "the kindest and most gentle man I knew."

Here's Henry's full post (via The Independent):

"I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything!

"I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn't be more proud! He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn't want me to be sad, so I'm going to live my life the way he would want me to."

Shelton is survived by his three children. His funeral is scheduled for February 7.

[via: Emily Atack, The Independent]