On Strips: Jean Schulz

By | Friday, October 13, 2017 2 comments
You've no doubt heard of the fires sweeping through California, and how they've destroyed the homes of Brian (Mom's Cancer) Fies, Jean (widow of Charles) Schulz, and Craig (son of Charles) Schulz. Much of Charles Schulz's work, including his actual studio, had been relocated to the not-damaged Charles M. Schulz Museum years earlier. However, the Schulz family home itself is gone. And while Charles himself did not have to witness that, his widow Jean did. The two had married in 1973, not long after he purchased the property. Charles lived there until his death in 2000, and Jean's been there for the 17 years since, even though the house was put up for sale in 2011.

But think about that for a moment... Jean's lived at that house for 44 years. Well over half of her life. I mean, sure, the loss of whatever of Peanuts-related material that was certainly in the house is a tragedy, but that was their home. Her life was there. After every significant event, whether that was Charles getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or when Craig graduated from college, it would ultimately end with them returning back to that home.

Fies lost a great deal too. All of his own art, including for the projects he was actively working on. He literally came back to the smoldering pile of ash that used to be his home in a pair of flip-flops because that was the only pair of footwear he happened to have. His first purchases were two pairs of shoes, a shirt ("Now I have three."), a rake, and a shovel. He has been pretty composed about everything thus far, having been reasonably prepared (it sounds like) for something like this. But it's obviously still a huge loss.

But Jean? Well, she's not online as much so we don't get to see her reactions as directly. (They've mostly been reported on by Fies, in fact.) And while she's still in relatively good health for her age, I'm sure that at 78 she's not as nimble as she used to be. And while I don't know Fies exact age, I'm fairly confident Jean's been living at that house for all but maybe a decade of Fies' life, so she's almost assuredly got more memories of her house than he has of his. Not to mention, she's going through this without her spouse.

I'm not saying all this to suggest Jean's situation is especially more dire than any of the other thousands of people who've lost their homes. I'm sure that whatever Peanuts residuals she still receives will no doubt ensure that she has comparatively minimal problems with regard to finding new housing and such. I'm saying this to point out to anyone whose first thought was, "I'm glad the Schulz Museum was spared," that the bigger concern is that Jean Schulz lost her home. Not her house. Her home. The personal, hand-written love letters from Charles. Their wedding photos. The birthday cards. Her favorite sweater. She can replace the physical objects of her life -- a kitchen table, a television, a comfy sofa, etc. -- but all of the objects that she held any sentimental value for are gone.

The same with Fies. The same with every other person that has lost (or will lose -- the fires are still raging!) their home. The stuff is just stuff. And the memories of good times will always be with them. But there's a reason why they call it a home and not just a house.

I'm really happy that so many people have escaped relatively unharmed so far. I'm particularly happy that people I know are safe. And while it's nice that the Schulz Museum was spared, that should absolutely be an afterthought in this whole discussion.

Brian, Jean... anyone else I know whose home has been burned, let me know if there's anything I can do to help.
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Brian Fies said...

Sean, thanks. I've been to Jeannie's home a couple of times and it was beautiful. Compounding the loss is that she had several unique pieces of Mr. Schulz's original art in the home that are now all gone. I was so happy to hear she escaped; knowing the home's remoteness and terrain, I can't imagine she had any warning. She's an extremely strong person.

I'd like to clarify/emphasize that, while I consider Jeannie a friend, we haven't been in touch since the fire. All I know and have passed on is what I've heard from others, such as the Schulz Museum and Studio staff.

I am not particularly well-composed but must say I fake it very well. Dazed, stunned and confused. No idea what to do next. Pretty tired. And my stuff all smells like smoke--I'm getting real tired of that smell.

I'm 57, though I don't like to brag about it.

I appreciate your reporting, and think you captured a lot of people's feelings very well. The only good thing I've gotten out of this disaster so far is new appreciation for how boundlessly generous and kind people can be. The world is full of good folks.

Sean, thank you for this.