R.I.P. — Chris Shea

by M.C. Antil on December 11, 2010

The odds are pretty good you have never heard the name Christopher Dylan Shea.

Who Chris Shea is — or I should say was — was a former child actor who passed away a few months ago at the age of 52 at his home in Northern California. And though you may or may not have ever seen his face (he did guest turns on shows like The Odd Couple, Bonanza and Green Acres in the mid-to-late 60’s), you have no doubt heard his voice — or at least the unforgettable voice he possessed as a child.

For it was seven-year old Chris Shea’s voice — and his poignant reading of a Biblical passage from the Book of Luke — that helped take a few hundred animation cels and transform them into what they eventually became: the most moving 90 seconds in the history of Christmas television.

As an adult, Chris Shea was by all accounts the freest of free spirits, an impish and joyful prankster and a wonderful and loving family man who died of what the authorities later called “natural causes.”  His obit in the Eureka Times-Standard read in part:

“Christopher was a colorful person with a playful spirit and a big heart. His smile was contagious and his family enjoyed his wonderfully sincere hugs. Christopher influenced many who crossed his path in a positive and creative way: he frequently lent a hand to others when they were in need. He had a generous nature and took genuine pleasure in other people’s good fortune. He loved communing with nature, listening to music, and he had a lifelong passion for literature.”

I suppose there’s not much to add to that. Except maybe, thank you, Chris Shea.

May God be with you.  And may your spirit shine for as long as someone, somewhere is out there taking the time to reflect at this time of year — if only for 90 seconds or so — on something a precocious, thumb-sucking little waif with a tattered blue blanket once tried to impart to his best friend: the true meaning of Christmas.


larryhamrick October 6, 2015 at 8:21 pm

His reading of Like is one of the sigular most memorable events of my life. I look forward to hearing it yearly with my grand children as I did with my children and as my grandmother did with me. Its truly timeless. Thanks Chris. I look forward to hearing it in person from you some day when I arrive back in the 60’s in the furure.

rickmalibu1 October 31, 2015 at 6:11 am

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that?

lheurebleue December 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

What a beautiful tribute.
That 90 seconds was the only time I ever saw my Dad tear up over something on TV. I was 11 when it premiered, and that memory has stayed with me all my life. I watched it for the 49th time tonight, remembered my Dad, and cried again.
Truly, Chris Shea is immortal.

Penny Williams October 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm

This is my favorite part of all of the Charlie Brown stories. I saw it on TV when it first came out. I love Chris Shea’s reading of Luke’s version of the birth of Jesus all the more today. I’ve got a DVD of this Charlie Brown story — all because of Christopher Shea’s telling of what Christmas is all about. RIP sweet Chris Shea. I bet when you were on Earth, all of your friends loved you. Now, you are loved forever by Him completely.

jeffrey r hill September 18, 2014 at 10:36 am

I lost my brother mid-jan and he was 52

servantoftruth December 9, 2014 at 11:36 pm

So sorry to that, Jeffrey. I lost a brother too a long time ago..1986. The pain continues to this very day.

Alan Barnes July 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm

My father died of a massive heart attack at 52…..That IS considered natural causes…..

Jee Suss May 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I knew Chris, good guy, poker player with me in our youth…..he did not look like he ha AIDS…..

M.C. Antil May 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

I had not heard of the AIDS thing. And while I’m not saying it is or isn’t true, I am saying please be careful about even responding to unsubstantiated claims on the internet. They have a way of taking on a life of their own, regardless of whether or not they may be true. But what does not change is that many people like yourself, who knew Chris and who went back a long way with him, choose to remember him as a great guy, a good family man and a pretty serious poker player. Thanks for the comment.

Luke3rd February 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

someone told me he died from Aids. his family don’t want others to know.

Anonymous September 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

“Natural death” at only age 52??? there’s nothing natural about dying at age 52.

elle June 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

how does one die of natural cause at the age of 52?

Ex Buckleyite December 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I knew him back in school.  Funny kid, no swelled head…RIP Chris, play some poker with the dudes in Heaven!!

Judi B November 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm

So true.  Makes me tear up every year!  And I’m sharing this.  Merry Christmas, M.C.!

M C Antil November 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thanks, Judi.  Brings back a wave of memories on so many levels, huh?  Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Alan Grimme December 19, 2011 at 3:03 am

Out of the mouth of babes…

Anonymous December 20, 2011 at 1:42 am

Amen to that, Alan. Please feel free to share the post with others, OK?

And Merry Christmas.

Bibitz December 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

And that is not what only what CHRISTmas is all about — it is what life is all about — thank you Christopher Shea …

Alan McCann April 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm

your welcome. i love u all but i want him bad! Now.

Nicea March 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

i miss my daddy. the sound of his voice every time i hear that floods my eyes with my longing that he was still here.

Andy Fleming December 12, 2010 at 5:59 am

p.s. For fans of Charlie Brown Christmas; get the book; A Charlie Brown Christmas “The Making of a Tradition” by Lee Mendelson with Reflections by Bill Melendez. This story behind the making of this Christamas animation is a great little read and captures a classic in the making with a great spinning story to meet a deadline for the sponsor-Coca Cola. Charles Schulz (fondly known as “Sparky” by close friends) and Mendelson produced a classic long ago in 1965. We are all kids at heart, M!

Andy Fleming December 12, 2010 at 5:45 am

Bummer… As we have discussed in the past, Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol are seasonable “musts”. The voices that replaced Chris’ were never even in the ballpark. His “meaning of Christmas” scene and voca ls is unmathched. Oh well, his Linus will live on forever.

Good catch, M.

M.C. Antil December 12, 2010 at 7:34 am

Thnx, Andy. Apparently, the very first voice the Charlie Brown producers used to replace Chris Shea was that of his younger brother. And while their voices were close, the difference was the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: