Kathleen Shearer

Kathleen Shearer
United Flight 175

Together All the Way

Their dream was a house with a view. It happened by accident. Kathleen Shearer was buying a chair in Dover, N.H., while her husband, Michael Shearer, waited outside the store. He found the area charming. Once she was done, they drove around and spied some available property abutting a river. They made an offer, but were the lowest of three bidders. Yet the other offers fell through, and they got it. Afterward, Mr. Shearer would say that it was the most expensive chair he had ever bought.

They built their dream house and moved into it last April. On Sept. 10, Mr. Shearer, a great fan of lawns, finished seeding the property. The next day, they boarded Flight 175 to Los Angeles. They were going to clean out the apartment of Mrs. Shearer's father, who had entered a nursing home, and would visit one of their two daughters, Karrie Castro, who had recently given birth to their first grandchild. They expected to return to a new lawn.

Mrs. Shearer, 61, a retired doll maker, and Mr. Shearer, 63, a retired engineer, had been married 39 years, and they still held hands. In retirement, Mr. Shearer kept busy teaching computer classes and laboring on the lawn. Wherever he lived, he was known as the Lawn King. He liked to playfully invite friends and neighbors to kiss his ring in honor of his title. Most took a rain check.

He went to great lengths to ensure the beauty of his grass. One memorable day years ago, when Karrie and her sister, Mary, were on the way home from high school, they discovered their father vacuuming the lawn. He had accidentally spilled too much fertilizer on it, and to prevent grass burns, had hauled the vacuum out.

Mrs. Shearer had been working on a quilt to present to her granddaughter, Shea, now 8 months old. Mrs. Castro feared that her mother had taken the quilt with her on the plane, but it was not quite done, and was found back at their dream house. And that chair? It was there too, in the living room, facing the view.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on Sunday, March 31, 2002.

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