On February 27, 50-year-old Timothy Shields, a photographer, was found dead in his cabin in a Big Indian housing complex on Oliverea Road.
Although a medical examiner's report would show that Shields died of a pulmonary embolism, the flurry of police activity around his cottage and an unusual piece of decoration on his wall made rumors fly about a darker fate.
According to Shandaken Police Detective Fred Holland, Shields had a "large sword" hanging on his wall. Despite the fact that the sword had nothing to do with his death, it was mentioned on police radio, which residents across Ulster County listen to on police scanners. By evening, the Watershed Post received concerned queries: Was there a murder in Big Indian?
Detective Holland put a stop to those rumors immediately. Shields' death was a natural one, he said.
"There were no knives involved," Holland said when we reached him two days after Shields' death. "This township's probably about 30 miles across. You stub your toe at one end, by the end of the night, you've gotten amputated at the other."
Anne Pyburn Craig, one of Shields' neighbors, was relieved to have the rumors cleared up.
"He was a wonderful neighbor," she said. "I was so unsettled at myself finding myself fearing that somebody had harmed him."
According to his brother, Gary Shields, Timothy moved to the Catskills over 20 years ago and exhibited his photography at Ulster County cafes and galleries. A funeral service will be held in South Salem, New York, at a date to be determined. The family has issued this obituary:
Timothy James Shields
Born March 14th, 1960 in Prescott, Arizona died unexpectedly at his home in Big Indian, New York February, 2011. He grew up in South Salem, NY where his family ran the only local grocery store, the Salem Market.
He is survived by his mother, Margery Lavery of Guilford, CT; his brother Gary Shields and niece Jennifer of Goshen, CT; his brother Michael Lavery of Springfield, MA; his sister Andrea Lavery, nephew Alessandro and niece Kylie of Old Saybrook, CT.
Timothy was a graduate of the University of the Colorado, Boulder where he earned a degree in Creative Writing. During his college days he completed a study abroad program in London. While there he bartended at the famous Dicken’s Inn by the Tower Bridge on the Thames. He described this as one of the happiest times of his life. After graduating, Tim spent some time as a photojournalist for the Lewisboro Ledger, writing columns about and taking photos of the area he loved dearly. He was a gifted and sensitive photographer with a deep love of nature.
A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in South Salem, New York.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Timothy’s name to Worldvision.