In Memory

Bruce Sherman

Bruce Sherman

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04/10/11 05:32 PM #1    

Karl Beckle

I knew Bruce from the 5th grade on.  He was the kind of person that would do anything for you.  He was incredibly musically talented, all self taught.   Sadly , he took his own  life in 2009.  He felt like he was a failure, and that life was just too hard.  My wife and I attended his memorial.  It was packed.  Bruce never realized how his life touched so many people.  He will be missed by those who knew him.

04/26/11 06:45 PM #2    

Douglas Mueller

Bruce and I were friends from kindergarten at White Oaks School in San Carlos, through Brittan Acres, Terra Linda and of course Carlmont. We very often had Bruce to our home for Christmas Eve, and greatly enjoyed his lively renditions of old sea chanteys played on his "squeeze box." Starr and I, and our children, dearly miss him.

Below is a column Carl Nolte of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote on Bruce's passing:

Sad farewell to musician Bruce Sherman

September 06, 2009|By Carl Nolte

Most people in San Francisco have probably never heard of Bruce Sherman, who played the concertina and sang very old tunes around the city. Sherman was a quiet and gentle man who loved to talk, but not about himself.

He was one of those people who are part of the background but reflect the style of the city, like the people who sell flowers at the sidewalk stands or a neighbor you see on the street, someone you know and don't know at the same time.

I knew Sherman a little. I'd see him around town, at book events, where we'd have an occasional glass of wine together. If there was a nautical event, he'd be there playing, the accordion sometimes, sometimes the concertina. He was part of the city. Now he's gone.

Sherman loved San Francisco, the waterfront and sailing ships, steam beer and old streetcars. He saw the city as a pageant and he had a modest role in it, standing quietly in the back, wearing a small smile, playing a sea chantey or some ancient English tune on his squeeze box.

He wasn't one of those street musicians, asking for donations. Sherman had an income; he played because it pleased him. It was what he did.

He was as tall and lanky as Ichabod Crane, as a scarecrow. He had a long face, wore glasses and a cloth cap. He was 66 years old, but had the unfailingly polite manners of another age.

He played at coffeehouses like the Caffe Trieste sometimes, played at old-time music events at the Progressive Grounds on Bernal Heights and played and, on weekend evenings, sang at the Phoenix bookstore in Noe Valley.

Most Saturday afternoons he was aboard the museum ship Balclutha, playing and singing sea chanteys and talking to visitors from all over the world who came to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. He'd collect small crowds and tell stories about the old ships, about the city and about the music. He had a reedy voice and a gentle manner. "It was magic to see him and listen to him," said Chris Jannini, who works as a rigger on the Balclutha.

Sherman was no casual musician. When he came to the Phoenix bookstore, he always had a playlist, said James Koehneke, the Phoenix manager. He played Irish, English and French folk music, and explained the music carefully, like a musical scholar. The customers liked him. "An unexpected pleasure" Koehneke called it.

Sherman was an artist, too, a professional craftsman in fine glass. He worked with Ruth Asawa, the sculptor. A bit of his work is in the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Yet there was also a bit of sadness about Bruce Sherman; there was something behind that small smile and his courtly manner that none of his casual friends saw.

He took his own life on Aug. 9, a Sunday. "He had his personal reasons," said his brother, Scott. "He got to a point where he felt it was time to go." His family and friends were astounded. "It took everybody by surprise," said Peter Kasin, a park ranger who played alongside him for years. "We had no idea."

Sherman would always close his evenings at the Phoenix bookstore with a traditional Irish tune called "The Parting Glass."

Of all the comrades e'er I had, they're sorry for my going away

And all the sweethearts e'er I had, they wish me one more day to stay.

But since it falls unto my lot that I should go and you should not

I'll gently rise and softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all.

A memorial for him will be held at 3 p.m. next Sunday at Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez St.


05/07/11 02:32 PM #3    

Douglas Kuehn

Bruce and I were also in 4th grade together and remained friends through high school.  He was his own person, but never seemed to quite fit into the 50's stuff.  I recall, he had a strange black old car whereby if stopped by the local police would keep his driver's license and registration in a bible under the sun shade.  Don't know if this worked or not, but illustrates something about his attitude towards society's regimen. I'm sorry that he is gone.

08/02/11 02:44 AM #4    

Jack Lewis

It is with great sadness I read of Bruce Sherman's passing. I met Bruce at Karl's house around the corner from Gary Vowles. I do remember Bruce's smile, and always passing in the halls of Carlmont, a "hello Jack". I've always been bad with names and few would pass and say "hello Jack". It has stayed with me until this day. I'm still bad with names, and yet with co-workers I try to learn their names so that I can attach a "hello" with their name, bringing a smile to their face. Bruce Sherman is still making a difference in the lives of others.  At one of the reunion's Bruce pulled me aside to say hello.  We went outside in the lobby, where it was quieter, and talked about his love for music and mine for sailing.  I was tied up in my "busy" life and was not able to follow thru and catch up with him in San Francisco.  Bruce Sherman, you are missed.

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