Remembering Charles Shere, who approached life with open-minded wonder

Charles had a long, varied career in music and the arts, traveled extensively, embraced family and friends and was a founder of Chez Panisse.

Charles Shere
Charles Shere. Photo: Courtesy family

Charles Everett Shere died quietly at home outside Healdsburg on Dec. 15, 2020 after a 25-year “dance” with prostate cancer. He was 85 years old. Lindsey, his wife of 63 years, was at his side.

Charles was born on Aug. 20, 1935 in Berkeley and grew up there and in rural Sebastopol, where he graduated from Analy High School. He was a great great grandson of prominent Sonoma County settler Robert Crane. He attended Chapman College, Santa Rosa Junior College and San Francisco State University before graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in English in 1960.

He also studied musical composition and conducting during the 1960s and had a long, varied career in Bay Area music, art and media. He was music director at KPFA Radio; announcer, critic, director and producer at KQED-TV; lecturer in music at Mills College and art and music critic at the Oakland Tribune. He founded and published the new-music magazine Ear in the 1970s, and composed music throughout his life. He was the author of many books on music, literature, and travel and published two volumes of memoirs.

He and Lindsey were also founding partners of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse restaurant, where Lindsey was the pastry chef, and Charles served on its board of directors for many years.


Charles and Lindsey settled permanently in Sonoma County in 1997 after 40 years in Berkeley. They had previously spent many weekends in the house Charles built on a hill outside of Healdsburg on land shared with their eldest daughter; now they made it their home. Over the next 23 years, his home life was filled with long dinners, books read and written, and attention to friends and family.

He and Lindsey traveled extensively, visiting friends, family and honorary children in Europe and Australia. Many of these “honorary children” were connections that began with exchange students, or with the families that their children stayed with on their own country exchanges. Charles and Lindsey often brought their own children and grandchildren on these trips, fostering a similar interest in culture, language and family bonds.

Always caring, social and interested in people, Charles struck up conversations with everyone he met — barbers, museum guards, dentists, friends of his children. He nurtured his relationships with family and friends abroad just as he did with friends at home.

Together, Charles and Lindsey made annual theater trips to Ashland and Pasadena with friends, and thought nothing of driving to Los Angeles for an art exhibit. They spent time visiting children and grandchildren across the western states; once, when a flight was canceled, they drove overnight to Portland to make it in time for a son-in-law’s birthday. They enjoyed watching their beloved Cubs at spring training in Arizona and saw the total solar eclipse at a baseball game in Oregon.

Charles also enjoyed travel by foot. Over multiple trips, he and Lindsey walked the length and width of the Netherlands with friends and family. He climbed Mt. Whitney and Mt. Shasta with a son-in-law and a grandson; and hiked the GR5 trail through the French Alps from Geneva to Nice with a friend and another grandson. He liked this last adventure so much that he walked it twice more, with friends and an honorary son.

Charles’ blogs and writing widened his contacts around the world. He kept one blog devoted completely to his meals, and another to address his wider interests, including (but not limited to) travel, art, music, literature, language and cultural history. He was curious about everything; he could hardly walk down a street without stopping to watch movers unload a piano, to observe some minute architectural detail, or to watch children playing soccer. This was his approach to so much of life, whether it related to his grandchildren, his surroundings or a scholarly subject: open-minded wonder and enjoyment.

Charles is survived by his wife, Lindsey, as well as his brother Jim Shere (Maria), sons Lee Shere (Marion) and Paolo Shere (Meadow), daughters Thérèse Shere (Eric) and Giovanna Zivny (Pavel), eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as four beloved “honorary” children (Julio, Catharina, Dominique, Kees) and many nieces and nephews of whom he was very fond.

No memorials are planned at this time. Donations in Charles’ memory may be made to Other Minds or the Edible Schoolyard Project.