Thursday, April 13, 2017

RIP John Shearin

Wilkerson Funeral Home

John Daniel Shearin III passed away peacefully on the morning of April 9, 2017.

He was born on September 27, 1944 in Charlotte, NC to the late John D. Shearin Jr. and Virginia Jenkins Todd. He attended grade school in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Pinetops, NC where he and his younger brother lived and worked on their grandparents’ tobacco farm. After high school, he enrolled in the University of South Carolina, but decided to drop out and hitchhike through the south, working as a hotel chef in Florida and an artist’s apprentice in New Orleans. Having been inspired by JFK’s inaugural address, he changed course and joined the US Army in 1965. That November, he was deployed to Vietnam where he received two Letters of Commendation serving as Specialist (SP4) under the 121st Assault Helicopter Company and on Advisory Team 59 in the 21st Infantry Division. He was then promoted to Sergeant and returned to the US at the end of 1966 to complete his service in California.

After discharge in 1968, he found a newly ignited focus on life and recognized his truest passion: theatre. He decided to enroll in The College of William & Mary where he was named Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Theatre and Speech. He then earned his M.F.A. at Penn State University before moving to New York City to begin his career as a professional actor. Between 1973 and 1990, he moved back and forth between NYC, Los Angeles, Boston and D.C., disassembling and shipping his motorcycle from one coast to the other, acting in many television shows, including “Bret Maverick,” “Hunter,” “Loving,” “M.A.S.H.,” “Matlock,” “Designing Women” and “The Young and the Restless,” while also staying heavily involved in stage theatre as a director, playwright, actor and co-founder of the acting school Playhouse West in LA. In 1989, John wrote and directed two plays, a pair of highly-acclaimed companion pieces named Sleeping Dogs/Dinky Dau that confronted the lasting violent physical and mental horrors of the Vietnam War. He described this as the most significant and meaningful work of his career.

After this capstone, John made a career shift and accepted the position of chairman at what is now the School of Theatre and Dance at East Carolina University, completing an adventurous circle back to his home in eastern NC, bringing his blossoming young family with him. In 2015, he was awarded ECU’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, one of the university’s most prestigious awards. He produced hundreds of plays and musicals and touched countless lives as a director, professor, scout leader, musician, coach, community leader, friend, husband, father, son, brother and all-around family man. Through all chapters of life, he was known for his great smile and contagious laugh, his principled and charitable mind, his deeply loving soul and his devotion to helping others reach their fullest potential.

He will be dearly missed by all that survive him, including his wife of 33 years, Jennifer Shearin of Grifton, NC; his children, Daniel Shearin of Asheville, NC, Katie Chaffee and husband Alex of Washington, D.C., and Sarah Shearin of New York City, NY; his brother, Robert Shearin and wife Cindy of Manhattan Beach, CA; as well as nieces, grand-nephews, and a host of other family and friends around the globe too numerous to mention.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 14 at the Wilkerson Funeral Home. There will also be a memorial service at ECU on May 7, details forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, friends may make donations to the John Shearin Memorial Fund by contacting Mary Jane Gaddis in the College of Fine Arts and Communication at (252)328-1268 or

“The time will come to close my eyes and see the guiding light.”

SHEARIN, John (John Daniel Shearin III)
Born: 9/27/1944, Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Died: 4/9/2017, Greenville, North Carolina, U.S.A.

John Shearin’s westerns – actor:
Little House on the Prairie (TV) – 1981 (Nathan Sherman)
Bret Maverick (TV) – 1981-1982 (Sheriff Mitchel Dowd)
Guns of Paradise (TV) – 1989 (Maxwell King)

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