Rev. Robert Shields, detailed diarist, dead at 89
The Rev. Robert Shields, a retired schoolteacher and minister whose massive diary detailed everything from his dreams and bodily functions...
DAYTON, Wash. — The Rev. Robert Shields, a retired schoolteacher and minister whose massive diary detailed everything from his dreams and bodily functions to his grocery store receipts, is dead at 89.
Shields, whose 3,000- to 4,000-word daily output for more than 20 years gained worldwide attention in the mid-1990s, died Oct. 15 of complications following a series of strokes, according to Hubbard-Rogg Funeral Home, which handled memorial arrangements in this southeast Washington town.
"Everything I do, everything I eat, everything I wear, everything I read, everywhere I go, everything I think or dream ... just everything," was entered in the diary from 1972 to 1996, when a stroke hampered his ability to type, Shields told Oprah Winfrey on her show in 1997.
"If an eccentric is a kook, I guess I'm a kook," he told the Tri-City Herald in 1995.
His compendium of grocery receipts, personal hygiene, urination, bowel movements, events large and small and random thoughts and observations, typed on a succession of IBM Memory Typewriter 100s, filled 91 cardboard boxes and amounted to an estimated 36.5 million words when it was delivered to Washington State University in 1999.
Born in Seymour, Ind., Shields earned a bachelor's degree from Franklin College and was ordained a minister at Hopewell Baptist Church.
He later worked in Chicago for the Jerry Bryant Art Studio and World Book Encyclopedia and Childcraft, taught English at high schools; in Cowen, W.Va., Martin, S.D., Kennewick and Dayton and was minister at First Congregational, United Church of Christ in Dayton.
In 1987 he donated his life savings to establish a charitable trust providing $100,000 for Washington State to care for his diaries but specified that they be closed from public view for 50 years following his death.
"I paid them to take it," he told The Associated Press in 1996. "I don't know what they are going to do with it."
Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Grace, daughters Cornelia, Heidi and Klara, and brother Monty.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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