THE MYSTERY SALVAGER OF SANIBEL STORY
(What Jean’s heirs may have abandoned)
Reports indicated that immediately after Jean Shepherd died (October 16, 1999), two people entered his home on Sanibel Island, Florida, went through it, and carried stuff off. These people are assumed to have been two of his heirs, and thus, one would like to hope, somewhat knowledgeable about his legacy. Some time later the house was sold.
A man we’ll call Mystery Salvager (MS) tells his tale. He says he got the salvage contract to clean out the house and the right to keep whatever he found there. He says he did not realize to whom the house had belonged until he entered it and recognized the name, because, coincidentally, he had had some slight contact with Shepherd years ago up north.
Here is MS’s story. He says he was amazed at what he found abandoned in the house. As proof of his story he sent to Jim Clavin, a few photos of things he carted off for safekeeping. He sent a photo of the cast bronze Hammond Achievement Award Plaque Shepherd received in 1981, part of which says:
Hammond Achievement Award
Honored by his Fellow Citizens
Of Hammond, Indiana, for Outstanding
Achievement in the Fields of
Literature, Radio Broadcasting & Television.
Among other objects of interest that MS says he now possesses are a framed New York Times crossword puzzle with a reference to Shepherd (a photo of this has also been seen); the marriage license of Jean Shepherd and Leigh Brown; Jean Shepherd’s ham radio equipment; a box of manuscripts with titles that indicate they might be unpublished stories.
Should this tale be true, and the photo of the bronze plaque seems to bear some proof, one might think these objects have sentimental and historical value. Some of them have financial value, and the unpublished manuscripts, if authentic, would have considerable artistic value as part of Jean Shepherd’s legacy. What about tapes of broadcasts? One might wonder what other objects—cast-off salvage—might have been abandoned.
As an indefatigable salvager of Shep material myself, I follow the leads. I talked to Jean‘s son Randall, and he remembers that the ham radio equipment had effectively been retrieved from the house before salvage operations, and he rescued his father’s Morse code key (which he subsequently said that he’d given to a ham radio person). He doesn’t think there were manuscripts of unpublished stories but only scripts sent to Shepherd for his approval and other such matter. (What about the unpublished army story book-manuscript Shep had announced several times? Even the titles would be worth knowing.) He comments that from the condition of the house when he visited it after his father’s death, Jean and Leigh had neglected even basic house-cleaning for what appeared to be years. Mystery Salvager must have had quite a job doing cleanup. For his own odd and infuriating reasons, MS has disappeared.
He holds many salvaged Shepherd treasures, possibly some of the highest artistic order,
but, maybe with a stash of tapes under his arm, he has vanished into his private swamp.
Part 2 coming