Born in San Francisco, California, Beryl Shaw grew up in beautiful Napa Valley, nestled in the wine country, sixty miles north of the city. When asked what determined the development of her life, she answers, "I was born to an extraordinary father."
His name was Dale Emerson Barber, M.D., a blood relative to Ralph Waldo Emerson. He studied at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and he was noted for his accomplishments in the second edition of Who's Important in Medicine, published by the Institute for Research in Biography, Inc. One accomplishment was the successful removal of a one-hundred-and-sixty-pound tumor that required two surgeries. Later, taking a year sabbatical from his local practice, Dr. Barber traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and performed surgeries in the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Africa, where he was challenged by both atypical disease and practice.
He was also a state judge for the Miss America Pageant for a decade. Beryl smiles, recalling all the various pageants she went to as a child. "I have pictures of my father that are reminders of my history. There's a beautiful black and white photograph of him, seated next to Burt Parks, at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. When I speak about my father and the judges with whom he acquainted himself, I speak of times way in the past and of people who are legends of long ago, such as Steve Allen, Dick Clark, and several Miss Americas who still appear on television today."
When asked if she grew up in Napa Valley or in San Francisco, she answers, "Both. Our family life was divided. My father took us to San Francisco to dine at fine restaurants and to attend plays or musicals at the Opera House. Then there was the Napa country life on our one-hundred-acre ranch, where he bred, rode, and showed quarter horses."
In her teens, Beryl lived in French Polynesia with friends of the family. While there, she learned the authentic versions of Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Samoan dancing, as she also adopted French language. After she returned to the United States, she joined a Polynesian dance group, known as the La Hui Nani Dancers, which performed throughout the Northern California Bay Area.
Then followed serious education: Stanford University, the University of the Pacific, and Brooks Institute of Fine Art — education from which she earned two Bachelor's degrees. After that, Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA, accepted her for the Master's Program in Fine Art.
In her early twenties, Beryl became a published model and represented several clothing lines. She also modeled for various magazines and secured acting parts in commercials, Kaiser Permanente being one of them. In her late twenties, she applied art to fashion, when she became the front window display artist for the Joseph Magnin Union Square store in San Francisco. "For me, fashion became an expression that incorporated the design of backdrops along with mannequin merchandise choices. One Christmas, I made life-size ceramic clowns that wore jumpsuits the color of snow, and my set design won the annual holiday competition for street-front windows."
As time passed, fate brought into Beryl's life a Zen priest, William Grace Shaw, a man she not only married, but also a man from whom she learned a unique doctrine of beliefs founded on the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. She recalls, "Zen Buddhism is a fascinating practice that keeps one mindful of whatever it is one does. If it's washing the dinner dishes or pruning plants, then that is your meditation at that instant. We were married in the San Francisco Zen Center, where we took vows in bare feet, knelt down in front of an alter and a Tanto priest. The wedding ceremony and groom were most unorthodox, and I will cherish forever my memories of both."
Unfortunately, a rare disease took William's life, and Beryl describes that period of her life. "William's death totally took me down. But the funeral was an unforgettable event. It was held at the Zen compound at Green Gulch Farm, located not far from the city on the way to Stinson Beach. The day before the funeral, I stood on a mountain crest that overlooked acres and acres of Zen farm vegetation, as I swung a large mallet against a brass gong. The resonating, triple-bell rhythm announced to Green Gulch residents that a high member of the order had died. The funeral that followed was more beautiful than our wedding was. The passing of a most elegant man was embraced by the complete Zen priesthood and community, who enhanced the ceremony with speeches and memorial chants."
Although William led a Spartan lifestyle, he was born to an extremely affluent family. As Beryl was raised by an extraordinary man, so was William Grace Shaw. His stepfather, who adopted him at age five, was Curtiss E. Frank — a man who was the Vice President of Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation, President of Dunn and Bradstreet, Mayor of Yonkers, New York, and an associate on a task force for the President of the United States.
After William's death, Beryl launched her fine art career that spanned a decade. Her figurative oil paintings were represented in ten states in America, including an art show juried by Janet Fish in New York. At this time, she won many awards and became a published artist.
Today, Beryl writes fiction. And although she claims painting was the hardest skill she had ever learned, she now admits that fiction writing is tougher. "The isolation doesn't bother me. Painting required the same type of solitude and dedication. Except I was highly trained in the art of painting, whereas I have had to teach myself writing technique."