Walter Lorimer Farley, who penned the popular "The Black Stallion" series chronicling the adventures of Alec Ramsey and his horse, died this past week of cancer. He was 69.

Farley died Oct. 16 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He had been ill for at least two years, officials said."It was an honor to work with him," said Eugenia Fanelli, Farley's editor. "He was a true professional . . . a grand master of the genre."

Farley seldom gave his age, but Lawrence Webster, librarian at the Venice Public Library, said he was born in Syracuse, N.Y., June 26, 1920.

Farley and Rosemary, his wife of 44 years, split their time between property they bought in the 1940s in Venice and in Earlville, Pa.

The couple was honored in January with the dedication at the Venice Public Library of the Walter and Rosemary Farley Wing, a national literary landmark that showcases Farley's career. A memorial service is scheduled there at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Farley wing was developed because they were "pivotal" in founding the library in 1962 and the opening of the building three years later. The library is still housed in the original structure, Webster said.

Farley actually wrote the original "Black Stallion" while attending Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and continued the work while attending Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

He began his trade as a copywriter for a New York advertising agency and then wrote for the Army publication "Yank" while serving his country between 1942 and 1946.

But the publication of "The Black Stallion," which combined his literary ability and love of horses, in 1941 was what charted the course for his career. A professor at Columbia suggested that he send it to Random House for publication.

It became a children's classic. At least 29 more books followed, 15 more in the "Black Stallion" series, and they have sold at least 14 million hardback copies in 14 different languages, officials said.

United Artists made a film rendition of the book in 1979, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Mickey Rooney and Kelly Reno. A sequel, "The Black Stallion Returns," was released in 1983.

Farley's last installment in the series, "The Young Black Stallion," deals with the stallion's life before he met Alec. It was written with his son, Steve, and is scheduled to be published in December by Random House Inc., Fanelli said.