All who knew and loved Shields Remine must have been amazed as well as deeply grieved by the news of his sudden death during the latter part of October. Ever since he took up swimming some years ago—first at the Carmine Street Pool, then at the McBurney Y—he positively glowed with health. Periodically he would dramatically pronounce himself “exhausted!” from logging miles in informal competitions among a band of collegial swimmers, but his eyes had a gleeful sparkle as he did so, and his step was light.
I knew Shields as a man-about-dance. From 1971 on, his name appeared on the masthead of Ballet Review, first as an editorial assistant, then as managing editor, and finally as editorial consultant. Attending a dance performance with him (always spiffy in a hand-knotted bow tie) or running into him in the lobby was inevitably energizing. He was knowledgeable and critical, but what he loved, he loved almost unreservedly, his whole body tensed and tingling with excitement. “Glorious!” was a word he used a lot, whether applying it to a ballerina’s performance, a new piece of choreography that moved him, or high points in his life—like the 2003 trip he took to Durham, New Hampshire, with a contingent from St. Luke in the Fields to celebrate the Episcopal Church’s consecration of Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop (Shields could have flown home from there under his own steam; he was that buoyant of heart).
Shields’s involvement with St. Luke’s—as an usher at services and a major force in the church’s Outreach Programs—constituted a profound part of his life. He was a leader and organizer of the team from St. Luke’s Church and School that, under the aegis of the Episcopal Response to AIDS, participates in the annual AIDS Walk in Central Park. In its 2006 push to sponsor its walkers, St. Luke’s AIDS Project raised a record $14,106 to donate to GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). In photos of the event, Shields’ face, grinning hugely, shines out from amid the jubilant crowd of students, teachers, and clergy.
He also served in the St. Luke’s ministry that was originally organized to give comfort to HIV/AIDS patients at. St. Vincent’s Hospital in the days when those patients had to be identified and isolated. He continued as one of the red-ribboned volunteers from St. Luke’s who now dispense tea, cake, and fellowship every Saturday and Sunday without regard to the nature of people’s illnesses. It was because Shields didn’t appear one weekend that his friends feared the worst. Shields always showed up.
Shields expertly transcribed taped interviews—for Ballet Review and other publishing ventures (at one point, I remember, he was laboring over interviews with prominent generals for a work to do with military history). He transcribed for me well over 50 discussions with dancers, actors, choreographers, and others who’d been involved with Jerome Robbins. He’d hand-deliver a given interview, printed out and on disk, in record time, and sit to chat for a while. He provided great gossip, as well as useful annotations and recommended reading. He knew a lot more about Bette Davis and Barbra Streisand than I did.
The glow that emanated from this lovely man—his generosity of spirit, his zest for life—always lingered with me for a while after he hurried away and I shut the door. A light-filled doorway opens in my mind whenever I think of him.
A Memorial Service for Shields Remine will be held at St. Luke in the Fields, Hudson Street between Grove and Christopher, on Wednesday, November 29 at 7 p.m.