R.I.P. — Chris Shea

by M.C. Antil on December 11, 2010

The odds are pretty good you have no idea who Christopher Dylan Shea was. 

Who Shea was, was a retired child actor who passed away a few months ago at the age of 52 near his home in Northern California.  And though you may or may not have ever seen his face (as a guest star in shows like The Odd Couple, Bonanza and Green Acres), you have no doubt heard his voice — or at least the unmistakable and unforgettable voice Chris Shea possessed as a little boy.

For it was seven-year old Chris Shea’s voice — and his stunningly poignant reading of a Biblical passage from the Book of Luke — that helped transform a few hundred animation cels into, without question, the most poignant 90 seconds in the history of Christmas TV specials.

As an adult, Chris Shea was by all accounts the freest of free spirits, an impish prankster and a wonderful and loving family man who died of what the authorities 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.”

There’s not much to add to that. 

Other than 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 boy with a tattered blue blanket once tried to impart upon all mankind:  the true meaning of Christmas.

  • lheurebleue

    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

    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

    I lost my brother mid-jan and he was 52

    • servantoftruth

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

  • Alan Barnes

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

  • Jee Suss

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

    • http://mcantil.com M.C. Antil

      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

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

  • Anonymous

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

  • elle

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

  • Ex Buckleyite

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

  • Judi B

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

    • M C Antil

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

  • Alan Grimme

    Out of the mouth of babes…

    • Anonymous

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

      And Merry Christmas.

  • Bibitz

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

    • Alan McCann

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

  • Nicea

    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

    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

    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.

    • http://mcantil.com M.C. Antil

      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.

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