Family, friend’s, faculty, students, and fellow musicians gathered at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, to celebrate the life of the Fullerton College Professor Roger Shew.
What began as a large room filled with the sound of small talk & hello’s, would soon transform into a room filled with beautiful music, laughter, smile’s and the heartache of tears.
Shew’s beautiful stand up bass, illuminated by a single light, stood on the right hand side of the campus theatre stage as a portrait of Shew was displayed on the big screen.
The vibe was overall positive, the room was lively, with most attendees dressed in formal attire; the campus theatre filled with chatter while soft jazz played.
As the celebration began, the lights were dimmed, as the all too familiar sound of the intro to Star Wars began playing, and a eulogy in the form of the introduction to a Star Wars film appeared on the screen as audience members began laughing and smiling.
As the introduction came to a close, friend of Shew and Dean of Fine Arts at Fullerton College John Tebay began by stating “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this day.”
After thanking those who attended, BUG, one of the many groups Shew was a part of, came to the stage as BUG’s pianist, James Miley, began to speak.
“The four of us had the pleasure of playing in this crazy band with Roger,” Miley said, “he made us all sound better, all the time.”
They then played the last song that they had played with Shew as a band, except this time, they would play the song “Unbroken” with no bassist, as some in the audience could be seen closing their eyes listening to the solemn song possibly imaging the bass notes that were no longer with us.
Pianist Matt Politano then came to the stage to played a somber rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” in honor of Shew.
The next two speakers were Roger Shew’s parents Dick & Kay Shew, who would share many fond memories of their son such as him dressing up as a girl in the fourth grade, playing a prank on his scout master and always being a helpful and caring son. Dick Shew ended their speech in tears by saying they were proud of the man he became and “We miss you so much.”
The next performance was by guitarist Riner Scivally, bassist Putter Smith and drummer Tim Pleasant playing the song “Beatrice.”
Shew’s wife Jamie Shew and bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz came to the stage to perform “Alone Together”, the last song that Shew ever played which him and Jamie played together in their home, Jamie tearing up before they began playing.
“The one, the only, the little jokester, Mr. Simon Shew”, Roger Shew’s son, came on stage with his mother to tell a joke about a pirate captain that made the whole crowd burst into laughter.
Jeff Miley, a friend and fellow musician that had the pleasure of playing with Shew spoke next, stating that he first met Shew at a gig like most of the people in the audience. He talked about how much of a good man he was, and funny facts such as that Shew would always bring candy with them when they headed to do shows, that shew would use funny words like “mehh” when he didn’t like something. “I realize to say he was an exceptional bass player was the biggest understatement,” Jeff Miley said, “Roger didn’t try, he just knew how to be on this earth.”
The final performance of the night was powerfully delivered by saxophonist Jeff Elwood, guitarist Mike Scott and drummer Dean Koba playing “We’ll Be Together Again” with Ellwood’s saxophone vibrating through the entire theatre.
Jamie Shew then returned to the stage, talked of how she met her “tall, dark, and handsome” Roger Shew in 1994, began dating in 1996, married, traveled around the U.S. together teaching at several universities until they ended up here in Fullerton due to a job offer at Fullerton College in 2003. This where they would settle down later having their son Simon in 2007. Jamie shared her fondest memories of Roger such as how he loved magic tricks, how he loved boobs, how he was always looking for the right sound from his bass, his love of Star Wars, biscuits and gravy and how he just loved making everyone laugh.
“I see Roger every time I look at Simon’s beautiful face,” Shew says, ending by thanking those that have helped her get through her loss such as John and Teresa Collar, and telling people she hopes they can try to be kind, fun and generous like Roger.
The event ended with a hilarious and touching slideshow and a release of balloons in the air in honor or Shew.
Many were attended the event, all the way from Miami, New York and even Tokyo.
They varied from admirer’s;
“I’m here in support of his wife Jamie, I never knew Roger but I seen him play several times.” John Campanella said, “He was an amazing bass player.”
“Only one thing can be said about Roger Shew, he embodied all the true characteristics and qualities of a gentleman.” Ernie Belafonte said.
To former student’s;
“He was by far one of the greatest teachers I think I ever had the fortune to experience.” Patrick Stevens said, a former student of Shew from the Laguna Beach High School Jazz Band, “It’s tough to think of anything in specific [to say] because he was just so all-encompassing and such a good person to be around.”
Overall, the event was a touching send off to a man that filled almost all of the 536 seats in the campus theatre, touched the lives of many and had attendees standing outside for almost two minutes of silence as a sea of balloons floated off into the sky in remembrance.
To share your condolences, and to donate to his family, please visit their donation page.