SANTA ROSA — The widow of the late Charles Schulz, creator of the iconic Peanuts comic strip, escaped the fire racing through Santa Rosa this week, but the hillside home the couple shared since the mid-1970s was destroyed, according to family members.
Jean Schulz fled her home at about 2 a.m. Monday and is now staying with family, her stepson, Monte Schulz of Santa Barbara, said Wednesday.
“She is very resilient,” he said. “She is energetic and pragmatic and very tough.”
Jean Schulz is president of the board of directors for the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center built in Santa Rosa two years after the cartoonist’s death in 2000. Most of his collection of original comic strips, artwork and memorabilia featuring characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts Gang, is housed at the museum, which was untouched by the fire.
“But there were a lot of Peanuts things in the house,” Monte Schulz said, although he wasn’t sure what.
His father rarely worked from home — preferring instead to go to his studio in town.
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“But he had a study with a drawing table if he wanted to do anything,” at the house, Schulz said. “Obviously that’s all gone. Everything’s gone.”
By Thursday, the wind-driven fires raging through several counties north of San Francisco, including Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino, had claimed 23 lives and wiped out thousands of homes and structures, including wineries, resorts and whole neighborhoods.
The fire affected other members of the Schulz family, as well. Monte’s brother, Craig Schulz, who lives in Santa Rosa with his family, also lost his house in the fire.
“The fire went so fast,” Monte Schulz said, “I don’t think anybody anywhere got anything out.”
Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000, embraced the world famous cartoonist — who lived in the county for more than 40 years — and likes to consider itself the “hometown” of the Peanuts Gang. The Sonoma County airport is named after him, with its logo an image of Snoopy flying on his dog house. Bronze sculptures of Charlie Brown and Linus welcome travelers and the information booth there looks like “Lucy’s” psychiatric booth: “Airport help: 5 cents.”
Schultz apparently never wanted any statues of himself, but agreed to sculptures of his characters, which are planted around town. Downtown Santa Rosa, the home of several statues, was unaffected by the fire.
Before his death, the Peanuts comic strip appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries.
Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis and moved his first wife and family to Sonoma County in 1958, building a house and studio in Sebastopol. He and his second-wife, Jean Schulz, built the house in the hills on the eastern side of Santa Rosa in the mid-1970s. He was 77 when he died of cancer on Feb. 12, 2000, at home.