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Shawn Stone - in memoriam

Shawn Stone
Shawn Stone

Our friend and longtime contributor Shawn Stone died of cancer, recently diagnosed, on October 20, 2021. Joe Donahue shares this tribute.

We have sad news to pass on this morning. A very dear member of our Roundtable family has died. Shawn Stone passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. He was 57.

Shawn has been a part of this program since its inception. Initially, he was for some reason referred to as our cultural cowboy. He eventually asked for that to be changed to Cultural correspondent. He was a longtime writer for Metroland and other arts publications in the Capital Region. He loved history, movies, music, and cats which came through in most of his work.

On our segment – that ran most Thursdays – he would join me to discuss what was happening on area stages and screens. His last appearance on our show was in August – days before he would be hospitalized for his illness. Prior to that it had been months. Most segments started with him telling me what he had just seen.

There was joy in talking with Shawn. He made me laugh harder than any other guest, his dry wit, sarcasm and cynicism were right up my alley. Shortly before COVID, I was seeing a movie for the Oscars at the Spectrum. I was the only one in the theatre. It was a wretched British film that had a twist ending that made no sense and caused a guttural groan. As that happened I heard another voice saying, wow, that was awful. As the lights in the theatre came up – it was Shawn.

The adjectives snarky, cynical, sarcastic and sardonic are all appropriate to describe Shawn – but as positives. His demeanor was all of the above – but, wrapped in layers of empathy, insightfulness and wonder. But the snark was always welcome. Years ago, I was asked to interview Steve Martin at the Palace Theatre. Shawn called to congratulate me on the gig. I asked him if he had any advice. He said, yeah – don’t interview your idols.” He was right.

On June 2nd – as things were starting to open up – Shawn wrote me a letter – it read in part:

"Greetings Joe,
Well, that was something Is it over? Beats me. Got my Pfizer second dose a month and a day ago, the whole thing was a blur. Anyway, I had a meeting with a former colleague two weeks ago, it was the first time I'd met someone in person on mass to drink coffee and talk for 90 minutes since the iron door closed in March of last year. Honestly, and I'm rarely honest, I thought I was going to cry. Being of reticent stock - I did not. She thinks we can produce some kind of useful content website. I have no faith in myself, but she's good. I'll let you know if anything happens.
This is the time to cherish who is still here. Last week I spotted an elderly Asian American man who always wears a pith helmet on the number 10 bus. He made it. I felt better."

On Tuesday night, I was invited by his friends to see Shawn and say my goodbyes. As I held his hand and thanked him for his friendship and lifeforce – I remembered the line from that letter –“This is the time to Cherish who is still here.” He was still here in that moment. And now he is not, but I am and always will cherish the joy Shawn gave me, our audience, our community.

Shawn's friends have organized a GoFundMe to offset the costs of his burial and memorial.

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Joe talks to people on the radio for a living. In addition to countless impressive human "gets" - he has talked to a lot of Muppets. Joe grew up in Philadelphia, has been on the area airwaves for more than 25 years and currently lives in Washington County, NY with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Brady. And yes, he reads every single book.