Jean Schulz helps keep the ‘Peanuts’ legacy alive

For the centennial of Charles Schulz’s birth on Nov. 26, Jean Schulz reflected on her role in helping preserve and remember one of America’s pop-culture treasures.|

When Jean Forsyth Clyde married Charles “Sparky” Schulz in 1973, the “Peanuts” cartoonist already had achieved worldwide success. Naturally, she left the spotlight to him.

After Schulz died in 2000, Jean found herself cast as the sought-after source for comment on all things related to the “Peanuts” comic strip. And with the opening of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa in 2002, she became the primary keeper of her late husband’s legacy.

For the centennial of Charles Schulz’s birth on Nov. 26, Jean Schulz reflected on her role in helping preserve and remember one of America’s pop-culture treasures:

Question: Soon we’re celebrating what would’ve been Sparky’s 100th birthday. He had such an impact on truly an international audience of children and adults. Looking back on all of his accomplishments and successes, how would you describe his legacy?

Answer: Sparky’s legacy is the comic strip. I think people recognize and appreciate the balanced humanity that comes through in the characters in the strip. I once said, when asked about the most important thing, (that) he worked very hard. Obviously not the answer they hoped for — but Sparky was proud of what he did — his craft, and worked hard to make it the best he could every day.

Q: How do you explain the phenomenal worldwide success of “Peanuts”?

A: I would have to say first, perhaps, the simple lines, then the true-to-life sentiments, the balance in each character — and in each individual comic strip and animation.

Q: What memory about him — a significant moment, something he said, something you shared — do you personally treasure most?

A: I love and remember Sparky saying, “Never sell anyone short.” To me that meant, “Don’t judge. You don’t know what someone has gone through.”

Q: Did Sparky have a favorite character?

A: Sparky always said that each of the main characters was a little of him. But he said Snoopy’s insouciance was the characteristic he liked and wanted to emulate.

Q: Since Charles Schulz’s death, you have emerged as the go-to expert on “Peanuts” for media from around the world. Has that been a challenge?

A: I have learned from the work done by the media experts in our Peanuts Worldwide New York office.

Q: The Charles Schulz Museum has been your project from the start. What achievements there do you take the most pride in?

A: I love the fact that the museum is new and sparkling to each visitor every day. A friend reported talking to three women who were in the area for wine-tasting tours. One said that their museum visit was the best part of their visit.

Q: During the early years of your marriage, how did you adjust to his fame, which was already well-established?

A: Sparky was very modest, low-key, hardworking — and adored everything I did — not hard to adjust to.

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