ATLANTA (AP) — Willie Maxine Perry, who helped inspire the character Madea played by her movie producer son Tyler Perry, has died. She was 64.

Tyler Perry announced her Tuesday death on his Web site, where he thanked fans for their prayers. He did not say where his mother died or anything about the cause.

Perry’s publicist, Keleigh Thomas, would not give further details Wednesday afternoon.

Perry owes much of his popularity to his portrayal of Madea, a sharp-tongued, iron-willed Southern matriarch played by Perry in a padded suit and wig. She is the central character in films like “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail,”

In an October interview, Perry told CBS television that the character is a celebration of strong black women who is based in part on his own mother.

“Madea’s a cross between my mother and my aunt — she’s the type of grandmother that was on every corner when I was growing up,” he said. ”… She’s a strong figure where I come from, in my part of the African American community.”

But the character has also earned criticism from some black community figures who argue Perry is reinforcing stereotypes of black women as overbearing, violent and brash.

Arlene Barron, executive director at the Jewish Community Center in New Orleans, said Maxine Perry had worked there as a nursery school assistant for about 10 years from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.