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The John Shinnick Web Site (Prior)

John Shinnick 3.0: It's All About Me

Last Update: March 2, 2024

Spoiler alert: The following is not an obituary.


Bebe was always hard to miss with her dark complexion set against a frame of stark white hair. Even in the summer, she wore long, flowery dresses, as she’d take her long walks through the streets of Kensington. So striking was her appearance, one might label Bebe as an eccentric. And one would be right. I walked quite a bit through the streets of Kensington myself, and our paths crossed several times before I finally introduced myself. I found this neighbor to be very outgoing and personable. She was Egyptian, the wife of an Egyptian diplomat stationed in San Francisco. When he passed on, she decided to stay in the area. Bebe was quite a pleasant eccentric.


Slight detour here. There was a house in Kensington that was very unique, not in its architecture, but in its paint scheme. It was blue and white with lavish designs that looked like it might be writing of some kind. Covering the house top to bottom, this motif was carried onto the garage, the car, the driveway, the mailbox, several large rocks, everything! I stumbled across the house before I became familiar with what has now been my home town for well over forty years. I was unable to find it again until just a few years ago. Along with Blake Gardens, it was one of two great attractions in Kensington that I simply couldn’t find. Blake Gardens was rather famous, this house was not, but it should have been, for simply being so unique.


Years later, I stumbled across the house again. Somehow It didn’t surprise me when I found out that the house was Bebe’s. When I began to walk more often, my usual route took me by her house, and I would often run into her as she was finishing a walk of her own. Now well into her 80s, she still enjoyed walking, though I would sometimes see her at a nearby street corner, sitting and looking at the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. She told me that the marks on the house were prayers. She was always quite spiritual.


She sometimes took some grief from certain neighbors. So it is with eccentrics. But she was always friendly toward me and I suspect anyone else who wanted to take the time to get to know her. One day I met someone chatting with Bebe in front of her house. He was a writer for a local magazine who had decided to write an article about her. I found a copy and, though the tone was very positive, it did mention that her memory seemed to be failing a bit.


Her walks were by now not as long as before, and generally when I’d see her it would be as she sat on her own porch. Then a couple of weeks ago, I walked by and found the house had been painted over with a very indistinctive gray paint. The prayers were still on the car and had not been removed from the driveway or rocks, but the most fascinating house in town was now gray and ordinary. I was to learn from one of her neighbors that Bebe had gone to assisted living. He didn’t know where, but allowed as to how the couple living across the street would. Apparently Bebe had at least a few neighbors who thought enough of her to know the story of her move.


have a growing number of friends who are dealing with assisted living. It’s not a trivial thing. The expense is frightening, and figuring out how to select an affordable facility of decent quality is daunting. I don’t know what tipped the scales in Bebe’s case, but she is now out of her home of many years. And the home is now just a house.


And there are now just that many fewer prayers to go around.

Bebe's House: Before and After

You Be the Judge

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