May 22, 1975 to September 25, 2014

Dark Humor and Western shirts

Charles Calvin Bartholomew died young, a staggering loss to those who recall his dark humor, compassionate nature, and unwavering liberalism. And oh, yes, his love of embroidered western shirts with pearl snaps. He was just 39.

DadTall, shaggy-haired, brilliant, Charles made an indelible impression on people, from the time he was young and loved to shock friends with gifts of specimens pickled in formaldehyde to his lifelong championing of the underdog. Quick to help the elderly woman next door till her garden, he provided veterinary advice to anyone who asked, and was the first to assist a stranger in need, no questions asked.

Before clinical depression overwhelmed his will to live, Charles had, in many ways, experienced unparalleled joy in his last years due to time spent with his precious daughter, Paisley, 9, and his adored partner, Evan Sherow.

Irreverent, graceful, eternally curious

But this story is not to dwell on the end of Charles’ life so much as to celebrate who he was—an irreverent, graceful, eternally-curious introvert, who worshipped two people; an equally irreverent, film-loving foodie by the name of Evan; and a little girl, Paisley, her father’s equal when it came to intelligence, wit and mugging for the camera.

Charles had a way with words, a passion for science (as well as profanity), and was extremely well-read, Evan said. “He couplewas a gifted scientist, like his father.” (Calvin Bartholomew is a chemical engineering professor at Brigham Young University.)

Most of all, Evan remembers what “an amazing father” he was, the days of raucous fun when Paisley visited over summers and holidays, going to festivals and science museums, watching educational movies at the planetarium, checking books out of the library that Charles and Paisley would read together.

“Charles loved Paisley with all his heart,” Evan said. “He wanted nothing more than to teach her to be a kind and generous person, encourage her interests and her happiness.”

Born to the spotlight, Paisley loved to role-play “school” and “restaurant” with her dad, Evan recalled. “Charles would always participate when she asked him to.” He would pretend to be the smart-aleck kid in class or a demanding, high-maintenance diner.

twoAt a family memorial service for Charles in Utah, Paisley spoke poignantly about her father. “My dad was wonderful at playing. Anyone who ever played with him knows what I mean.”

Quirky personality

Charles’ quirky personality was evident early, as recounted in a Facebook entry by a friend.

“Although I have not seen Charles in almost 20 years, his memory has been with me and always will be,” the friend wrote. “Tall, beautiful, hilarious. So clever. Master impersonator. (Scooby Doo, Judas Priest … Chewbacca). Most co-workers & casual friends fade out of memory after so much time. But not Charles. Blue tuxedoes & specimens in jars of formaldehyde as white elephant gifts. He was genius. But most of all Iturtle remember he was kind. God Speed, my friend.”

Frequently on his soapbox about social injustice, Charles believed that people needed to work together as a society to care for one another, Evan said. “He felt very strongly about LGBT rights, better education and healthcare systems, better social welfare programs for the poor, underprivileged and mentally ill.”

A lover of animals, he worked long hours as a veterinarian tech at University Veterinary Hospital & Diagnostic Center in Salt Lake City, a job that accrued an abundance of praise from clients who had entrusted him with their pets.

Debbie Gaddie, a client at UVHDC, was just one of many who posted sentiments in a Memory Book after hearing of Charles’ passing.

“Our entire family, two-legged and four, LOVED Charles and we will miss him. He was always so attentive, kind and caring during our visits to UVHDC. And knowledgeable! My mind was always put at ease when my animals were in his charge… I trusted him implicitly. May you rest in peace, sweet Charles. Debbie and Greg Gaddie (Cruzer and Daisy, too).”


Lots of cheese and cured meats

On Tuesday, September 30th, a service was held in Charles’ hometown of Orem, Utah. He was memorialized by his parents, Karen and Calvin Bartholomew; his three older sisters, Shirleen, Janet, and Kathryn (Kate), and his younger brother, David.

Paisley sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Knowing her late brother’s objections to religion, sister Kate made sure the service remained secular. Raised in a devout Mormon family, Charles—born May 22, 1975—ceased going to church at age 14. “He was an outspoken atheist,” Evan said.

Although Evan did not attend the service, she held a wake at a friend’s house the same day, an event she thought would be to Charles’ liking.

cheese“We had lots of cheese and cured meats as well as enough roasted pork to feed an army,” said Evan, a professional cook who specializes in cheese and charcuterie products.

Music played another important part at the wake. A friend brought his guitar and played some metal as a tribute.

A gifted guitarist, Charles played heavy metal and jazz throughout his teens and twenties but stopped playing the guitar before he met Evan. “He had a way of casting things off once he was done,” she said. Yet, “he was always playing music,” the volume blasting at dizzying levels due to his deafness in one ear.

caveCharles had a multitude of passions other than music: National Public Radio, politics, art, literature (especially non-fiction), reading National Geographic from cover to cover—and movies. “We would constantly discuss and critique everything we watched and followed our favorite directors religiously,” Evan said. Particularly fond of documentaries, “he watched all he could get his hands on.”

Charles’ favorite movie was the 1991 black comedy Delicatessen, which Evan describes as “a perfect representation of his character: dark, macabre and irreverent but at the same time light, witty, eccentric, artistic, charismatic, resourceful, and hopelessly romantic.”

Rainbows appeared

When Charles and Evan first met in Manhattan, Kansas in 2007, both were emerging from broken relationships. Neither wanted to start something new. But the magnetic field between the handsome veterinarian technician and the pretty, dark-haired photographer/cook was irresistible.

“We looked at each other and rainbows appeared,” Charles told Paisley. “Birds chirped and a butterfly landed on her shoulder.”


Halloween 2009

Twins in thought, they fed off each other’s sense of adventure. They loved hitting the open road and exploring anything and everything they happened across. When Evan mounted a photography exhibit based on one of their trips to Utah ghost towns, Charles helped make frames out of old trim and flooring pieces they found at a salvage yard. “We researched every place we visited and felt very connected to the history of each,” Evan said.

Although Evan was a Kansas native, Charles had transplanted there from Provo, Utah in 2005, with the intention of obtaining a degree in veterinary science from Kansas State University and starting a family. Two years later, his marriage over, Charles and Evan fell in love, and the couple moved to New Orleans in 2008, finally settling in Salt Lake City.

Dedicated non-conformists, they rarely exchanged Christmas or Chas-2birthday gifts unless it was spontaneous, such as the time they saw a men’s pink cowboy shirt in a store window and Evan rushed in and bought it for Charles.  “We declared to each other that every day was a holiday, and we didn’t need anyone else to tell us when and how to celebrate.”

As averse to societal norms as they were to consumerism, the two weren’t entirely opposed to marriage and decided to tie the knot on their twentieth anniversary, designating the day of the decision, November 22nd, as their future wedding day.

A wedding in 2027 was not in the cards, however.

Clinical depression had a way of seizing Charles’ moods, entrenching demons he could not escape. He neglected himself and his health. Evan worried that he was drinking too much. She asked that they separate for a short while so Charles could build his strength.

PopHe quit drinking cold turkey. But the stress of detoxing so fast took its toll and he spiraled into a black depression.

“I thought I was doing the right thing for us both and our future together,” Evan said. “I suppose ‘the right thing’ has a blurry line and like most things in life is subject to the whims of timing and luck. All I know now is how much I miss my best friend, the love we shared and how important it is to me now to try to do right by the part of him that will continue to live.”

* * * *

  • Evan set up a 529 education fund for Charles’ daughter Paisley. Checks made out to “CollegeAmerica Acct#88395805” can be sent to: American Funds Service Company, PO BOX 2713, Norfolk, VA 23501-2713.


  1. Kathy

    I feel deeply for Evan, Paisley and Charles’ family. About 3 percent of adults suffer from major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, a long-lasting and severe form of depression. It is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Center for Disease Control, and involved in more than two-thirds of the 30,000 suicides that occur in the United States every year. It’s difficult to treat and crops up throughout society, from celebrities like Robin Williams to sparkling souls like Charles. But caretakers and families suffer as well, their love and support so often insufficient when it comes to healing their loved one of this grotesque illness. Grateful Charles had such loving people around him in his last years. It was an honor to work with Evan on his story. Kathy Lowrie

  2. Kate (Kathryn) Bartholomew

    I’m so grateful to read this wonderful tribute. Popular opinion holds that his previously published obituary was just about the worst obituary ever (sorry Dad, don’t quit your day job). Thank you Evan and thank you Kathy!

    I know so well that dark place to which one can descend; the place where you cannot conceive that everyone on earth would not be better off without you. No one truly understands unless they’ve felt it themselves (and it’s not something you’d wish on anyone – the pain itself and the wretched stigmas that go along with it). My family thought it they were going to lose someone to suicide it would be me. As a result, I feel an odd survivor’s guilt and a deep regret that I didn’t sense what Charles was going through. He was an amazing brother, friend and father.

    One of my favourite tributes was written by one of Charles’s friends and former roommate, Christopher Lynn:

    Christopher Lynn: “I know that many people on the outside saw Charles as a burnout—drinking, smoking, drugs, long hair, etc. I loved Charles not only because he was a puckish devil, but that he was open to everyone. He could get along with the skaters, the cheerleaders, the cowboys, the goths, and me. I didn’t really fit in, but he was OK with that. I would tag along when he and some of you would skip school. I would do my Calculus homework in the backseat of the car while he would smoke.

    I remember a thin, fay, pale goth kid named Eirth (pronounced ‘Earth’). He had dreadlocks and would wear a skirt every day. One day in the student lounge, Eirth was getting harassed for his appearance by the cowboys. Chuck boldly stepped in and got the cowboys to back off. Charles wasn’t really friends with Eirth, but he couldn’t abide seeing an outsider get further marginalized. The cowboys listened, because they respected Charles, and they backed down and didn’t bother Eirth again.

    To Ben’s point, Charles was empathetic, which is exactly why we were all friends with him. We were all growing up in a strange and often homogenous [sic] place. But Charles watched out for us, and we were all misfits together.”

    There are so many stories about Charles defending the underdog. Even though he tormented my baby brother he wouldn’t let anyone else do it.

    I wonder now if he’d have fared the same way I did in genetic metabolic tests that indicated that I only metabolize one of six examined genes correctly – one that is no help with the serious anxiety and depression. For so many years I’ve wasted times with medication that I can not process. I suspect Charles would have been in a similar position. His extreme tolerance for alcohol certainly did not serve him well. I’ve resorted to ECT treatments and hope to be able to function as an actual member of society again some day. I’ve made many promises since Charles died, the long and the short of those being that Charles left so I must stay. I miss him terribly and love him dearly. I, too, am grateful Charles was surrounded by such profound love during his last years. It was a joy to watch at a time in my own life when very little joy was afforded to me.

  3. Kate (Kathryn) Bartholomew

    For the many who were aware of the wonderful powder blue tuxedo that Charles donned for many a special occasion, I hope you’ll agree with our decision to have him cremated in it. I delivered it to the Mortuary myself.

  4. Shirleen Beland

    I love what has been written here. I am currently trying to compress the genius and beauty that was my brother into a small memento for friends and family in the format of a photo book with stories. I feel completely inadequate to this task, but feel so strongly about preserving part of who he is that I can almost not function. I am so grateful to the example Chuck was to my children. He was, in no small part, the reason that they are so kind and willing to stand up for others no matter who they are. I don’t know if I could have taught them this alone as a devoutly mormon single mother, who was working and going to school. But he accepted me too and never judged me for my choices. I don’t remember the last time I talked to him, or hugged him, and this will haunt me for a long time. But I will always love him and do what I can for his beautiful little girl. I writing her an inadequate book too, but I’m doing it with love and hoping it means something. Happy anniversary Chuck and Evan. I’ll draw a rainbow and a butterfly and think of you. -Love Shirleen

  5. Kate Bartholomew

    I have to admit I did not win the secular versus religious battle. My family did compromise a great deal, but I was unable to convince them to honour a request for no religion. Charles, however, was more essentially “Christian” in action and open-mindedness and would have forgiven everyone involved without a second thought.

  6. Kate Bartholomew

    It’s Kathryn (not Katherine). It doesn’t matter, but I was having a “for the record” moment.

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