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.