Wider Than a Mile

In Memory of Henry Schiro

Last Friday afternoon I heard “Moon River” played for San Jose arts patron and supporter Henry Shiro at his funeral mass. As most in the community know, Henry spent the better part of thirty years raising money for, participating in, and cheerleading on behalf of San Jose’s arts and culture community, and more specifically, music organizations such as San Jose Jazz, the Children’s Musical Theatre, the Steinway Society, and more recently, the Mexican Heritage Corporation (MHC) and Plaza. They played a sampling of his favorite tunes at the service. Based on the SRO crowd at Friday’s mass, I’d say he succeeded in his mission of community service.  Also, he had great taste in music.

So I sat there in the basilica with hundreds of other fans of Henry listening to “Moon River” and remembered the first time I heard it. I was maybe 10 or 11 and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the afternoon movie of the week on television. My folks were not musical at all. My dad was a bookworm and mom also liked to read, but she also loved to take a break in the afternoon and watch the afternoon matinee on TV.  She and I watched some great movies together: The Glen Miller Story, The Pajama Game, Robin Hood, The Bishop’s Wife

Henry sort of reminds me of Jimmy Stewart, who played Glen Miller in the movie.  Like the actor he evoked a quiet, assured and firm determination, a dignified passion for service, and in the end, an uncommon commitment to giving joy. I know this from personal experience. Just days before his passing he was in San Juan Bautista meeting with the great Luis Valdez to encourage him to participate in a piano concert MHC is co-presenting with the Steinway Society in November.

Like all of us, Henry’s life was marked with challenges to be met and overcome. I thought of this listening to the Mercer and Mancini ballad, which was performed in the movie by Audrey Hepburn. The thing that calls when I listen to Hepburn sing “Moon River” is her perfect imperfection. Her voice is untrained, yet somehow she evokes the South and the river and exactly what the composer hoped, I suspect: a rainbow’s end.

And I think, given Henry’s priorities while he was living—family, music, and education—that is a place he knew, and knows, quite well. 

Marcela Davison Aviles is the CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and the Producer of the annual San Jose Mariachi and Latin Music Festival, which runs this year from next Sunday, September 7, through September 27. For information, go to http://www.sanjosemariachifestival.com/ 

3 Comments

  1. As you observed, Henry loved San Jose and contributed greatly to the arts community in general.  There were few arts organizations that did not benefit from his patronage,enthusiasm and support.  He and his wife Shirley are, in a sense, San Jose’s version of Florence’s (our sister city)Medicis, without the papal intrigue.
    He will be missed by all who shared his love of music, theatre and the beauty which makes life more livable.

  2. You’ve done a wonderful commentary, Marcela, on the celebration of life for Henry last Friday, a day we all will remember – he was a fine man and loved San Jose. I consider that a life well-lived, a very special life.  TMcE

  3. I never knew Henry on a personal level, but knew of him through the San Jose Jazz Society.
    During the service I became aware of the magnitude of Henry’s generosity and passion for the Arts and his love and pride for San Jose. What a loss for San Jose, but what a bigger loss for San Jose, if we never had him here to begin with. His dreams live on.