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Charles Shere, Healdsburg composer, music critic, author, dies at 85

Charles Shere, a Healdsburg composer and author, wrote about death three months ago, calling it “the bend in the road; dying is only not being visible.”

A former art and music critic at the Oakland Tribune who also worked at Bay area radio and television stations, Shere wrote in September that he might go “around the bend” in two weeks or a few months.

“And if you look carefully you may see me with my stick trudging happily along in countryside more tranquil than what we’re in now,” he wrote.

Charles Everett Shere, a world traveler, epicure, carpenter, avid reader and hiker, died at his Healdsburg area home on Dec. 15. He was 85 and had prostate cancer for 25 years.

“We were together for 63-plus years and there was never a dull moment,” said Lindsey Shere, who was at her husband’s side when he died. “And it’s very hard for me to imagine life without him — he was one in a million and irreplaceable.”

The multitalented Shere, who wrote four books, composed numerous musical pieces, lectured on music at Mills College and built his own home, was a “real-life Renaissance man,” Martin Snapp wrote in California magazine’s winter edition.

Shere received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts: one as an art critic, the other as a composer.

Lindsey Shere described her husband as “a social creature and a great conversationalist who could always look at something from a lopsided point of view … and find something funny in it.”

Shere had a blog called Eating Every Day “that was sometimes embarrassing,“ she said.

In January, he chronicled the couple’s culinary experiences in Delft, Netherlands:

“Soon my Martini arrived, more vermouth than gin, but a fine aperitif. The waiter asked for a review and I was honest. Well then we won't call it a Martini, he suggested, it is a Chefsbar Martini. Or a Chefsbartini, I replied, and we were all content.”

He loved talking to people he ran into on the street, on the trail, in restaurants, or wherever he happened to be, Lindsey Shere said. “He was the definition of gregarious. He was endlessly curious.”

Born in Berkeley in 1935, Shere grew up there and in rural Sebastopol, graduating from Analy High School in 1952. He was a great-great-grandson of Robert Crane, a prominent Sonoma County settler.

Shere attended Chapman College, Santa Rosa Junior College and San Francisco State University before graduating with honors from UC Berkeley with a degree in English in 1960.

He was music director at KPFA radio and director and producer at KQED-TV and founder of the new-music magazine Ear, which circulated from 1973-1991.

The Sheres were co-founders of the acclaimed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, along with Alice Waters and Paul Aratow, in 1971 and Lindsey was the pastry chef until 1997, when the couple settled in Healdsburg.

The Sheres made annual theater trips to Ashland and Pasadena, and traveled abroad to the Netherlands, France, Italy and Australia, sometimes bringing along their children and grandchildren.

Charles Shere climbed Mount Whitney and Mount Shasta with a son-in-law and a grandson. He enjoyed hiking a trail through the French Alps from Geneva to Nice so much he made the trek three times.

“I have no complaints,” his September note concluded. “I’ve had 85 years full of music, art, books, travel and most of all many dear and loyal friends. My life is full of love.”

In addition to his wife, Shere is survived by sons Lee of Hyampon in Trinity County, and Paolo of Laytonville; daughters Therese Shere of Healdsburg and Giovanna Zivny of Portland; a brother, Jim in Santa Rosa; eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

No memorials are currently planned. Memorial donations may be made to Other Minds at otherminds.org or the Edible Schoolyard Project at edibleschoolyard.org.

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