Ranney Sharman 1944 – 2016

Ranney Sharman

Ranney Sharman was born in San Francisco on January 23, 1944 to Duncan and Eileen Sharman. He was an only child, born fifteen years into his parents’ marriage. He had pneumonia at birth. The only thing that could save him was penicillin. But it was in short supply due to wartime rationing. He almost died then. But the hospital got ahold of a supply in time, treated him, and he lived for 72 years.

He was raised in a house near his father’s tavern in Ukiah, California. He played cowboys and Indians with his friends, Butch, Billy, and Jackie in an underground fort that they built in an old orchard. On Saturdays they listened to Big John and Sparky on the radio and then let themselves into the tavern and watched Space Patrol on the television. In those days, Log Cabin Syrup came in a container that was shaped like a log cabin and Crusader Rabbit endorsed 7-Up with milk.

He attended kindergarten for one day, but found it too boring to continue. He attended a Catholic School primary school where Sister Jeanette cured him of his left-handedness by hitting his knuckles with a ruler when he wrote with the wrong hand.

On a trip to Los Angeles, his father once confused the Hollywood Freeway for Hollywood Boulevard. They ended up staying in Venice Beach and riding on the roller coasters.

When his mother went back to visit San Francisco his father prepared Chicken Fricassee on Toast for dinner.

His high school years were spent as a boarder at Bellarmine High School in San Jose, where he held the office of class clown and was told that he wouldn’t amount to anything. The school mascot was a bell and it was once stolen by a rival team before a basketball game.

For a science experiment, he and a classmate set out to prove that tobacco was bad for one’s health by demonstrating that cigarettes would dissolve in sulfuric acid.

An inexperienced science teacher attempted to dazzle his Chemistry class with a complicated series of chemical reactions on the last day of school. But the room filled with poisonous smoke and the building had to be evacuated.

He visited the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962. His mother left him and his father to go shopping. As soon as his mother was out of sight his father said, “You’ll be fine on your own for awhile?” He was left him to wander on his own for a few hours. So he went up the Space Needle.

He attended college at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he met his wife Kathy. Decades later, at a party, they told an acquaintance that they had been together since college. She said, “I know. I remember you guys. I was a freshmen at Gonzaga when you were upperclassmen. You were quite the campus couple.”

He was married in 1967. He spent a year teaching at St. Mary’s Mission in Omak, Washington. He moved with his wife to Seattle and had his first daughter in 1969.

They lived in Seattle and then Yakima for a time. His second daughter’s godfather had long hair and brought a guitar to the baptism.

He and his growing family moved to Grandview, Washington in 1975. On their first day in the new house, they learned that a freeway was going to be built through their property. They had to have the house lifted off its foundation and moved to another lot two miles away. He lived in the relocated house for the next forty-one years.

Kathy once showed him a purple microwave while they were shopping. “Look. A purple microwave,” she said. He took this as a hint and returned later to buy it as a surprise gift. She was surprised as she’d only pointed it out because it was ugly.

He worked as a case worker and a social worker for the State of Washington for 31 years and 4 hours. Constant cutbacks and ineffective management left him frustrated. To receive his full pension he had to make up four hours of work that he’d lost in a brief labor strike years before, so he worked until noon on the 31st anniversary of his start date.

In retirement he volunteered with Lower Valley Hospice and with Mount Rainier National Park. He traveled to Scotland and Russia, went on camping trips, and visited his children and grandchildren who were scattered across the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.

He continued to travel after his cancer diagnosis, sometimes leaving directly from chemotherapy appointments to go camping.

He would speak to anyone he met, tell them where he was from, and describe how to find it on a map. His lack of self consciousness sometimes bordered on a lack of self awareness. Many found charming, but it embarrassed his children when they were younger.

He was a born storyteller, telling his children and grandchildren stories of his life that were rich in detail, but light on point.

He made some mistakes a long time ago, he was humbled, forgiven, and he rose above it. He was a devout Catholic and was the least judgmental person you’d meet.

He helped and cared for people. It was his job, but he also helped people in his volunteer time, and on his own time.

He enjoyed mystery novels and Star Trek. He listened to Rush Limbaugh and NPR. He made scrambled eggs for breakfast on Sundays and ate liver and onions when it was on the menu at a restaurant.

Why do obituaries never give the cause of death? He fought cancer, kidney disease, and dementia. He fought it until it was too painful to fight, until he started to lose himself. Then he went into hospice care and then he died.

He died in the morning on June 16, 2016 in Yakima, Washington. His wife, Kathy Sharman, held his hand. He tightened his grip briefly and then he was gone.

He is survived by his wife, six children, sixteen grandchildren, and a purple microwave.

Categorized as Words


The house is perched on a hill looking over a cloud-covered valley. Berkeley, San Francisco, Marin, the Bay: all of it is covered. I will drive down into the cloud to deliver Benjie to his school, then I’ll drive back. We moved my desk downstairs yesterday. But I will bring my laptop upstairs, work from the kitchen table and watch the light change.

The View

I can see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from my couch if I twist around like this. They lay just beyond where my wine glass sits on the window sill.

Categorized as Words Tagged


The Oakland Airport security screening area is plastered with billboard sized ads for the hotel chain that I stay at in Houston. Everything is painted in the hotel’s color pallette and the couches where people put their shoes and belts on after screening are scaled up versions of the couch that will be waiting for me at the end of my trip today. It makes for a strange transition, like I’m already there.

Categorized as Words

This Shirt is Now Older Than I Was

My Dick’s Drive-In shirt surfaced in my dresser today and I put it on. While brushing, my electric toothbrush gave off a spray of toothpaste dots and I immediately visualized the stippling of milkshake mixer dots that would I’d have spread across the shirt after a couple of shifts.

Categorized as Words

Comcast Cares

Each day that I’ve walked past this week, except for today, there has been a cloister of pelicans resting from their migration on the opposite shore of the lagoon. On the island in the next pond over from them there were also a number of egrets spread across the shore.

Yesterday, as I observed the birds, a dog came lumbering by. Its leash was pulled taut with a woman leaning against its weight at the other end. The woman wore a sea green tshirt with the words “Comcast Cares” printed on front.

Today, as I note the birds’ absence, a sea plane circles around to land in the bay behind me. It slows as its skids first skim the surface. Then it lifts off again, circles around and repeats its attempt twice more before it comes to a stop on its fourth attempt.


A jet’s vapor trail reaches from one horizon to the other intersecting the noontime sun at its halfway point.

2012 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon
This is the last bottle left from a haul of four wines that Tricia picked up at Wine Mine before our Thanksgiving trip. If it’s not the best wine from that haul, it is the most surprising. I haven’t been favoring cabernet recently, but this is tasty. It has strong fruit and tannin tastes that balance out perfectly.

Categorized as Words Tagged

Bottom of the Pumpkin Barrel

Russian chocolate

I found a weird hazelnut candy with a half-opened wrapper printed with Russian text in my son’s Halloween haul. I’m afraid I ate it. It didn’t taste good, but it also didn’t taste bad. I’m not sure what happens next.