Briton Thorne, 66, has been in a coma in an intensive care unit since Monday after suffering from respiratory failure, according to a GoFundMe page created to help pay for his medical care.
He died Wednesday at 1:55 a.m. after doctors shut down his machines, said Thorne’s caregiver Julie O’Neill, who has been posting updates on the fundraising page since mid-April .
“I was with him until the end and I read people’s messages to him,” wrote O’Neill.
“He died very peacefully and painlessly listening to his children tell him that they love him. It gives me comfort in these difficult times.”
Thorne became famous during the 1980s snooker boom and was one of the sport’s most recognizable players, according to a World Snooker Tour (WST) release.
“His gregarious nature made him one of the favorite characters of the snooker enthusiast audience as the sport flourished,” said the statement.
Born in Leicester, Thorne was friends with former English international Gary Lineker.
“Deeply, deeply saddened to learn that my friend Willie Thorne has died,” tweeted Lineker, who began his professional career in Leicester City. “One of the great characters in life. A wonderful snooker player and an adorable man, who potted his last black boy far too early. RIP Willie.”
Thorne was known for his tricks and liked to entertain the crowd. He worked as a television commentator for over 30 years and participated in the 2007 edition of the British ballroom dance show “Strictly Come Dancing”.
He then encountered financial difficulties, admitting to having borrowed up to £ 1 million ($ 1.26 million) after developing a gambling addiction, reports PA Media.
WST President Barry Hearn spoke fondly of his time directing Thorne in the 1980s.
“He was a larger-than-life personality and he played a major role in the revival of billiards at that time,” said Hearn. “It is so sad to hear that he passed away and that our thoughts are with his family.”