By Jonathan Farrell
Long-time SF resident and worker at the de Young Museum, Joseph Bartlow, Sr. died this past summer. His son, Jeb Bartlow, noted that his father passed away on Aug. 7, 2019.
During his tenure at the de Young Museum’s gift shop, Bartlow, Sr. was perhaps best known for his artistic flair in displaying items for sale. Occasionally, Bartlow would also help out at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.
Bartlow would often buy some of the items, like the silk scarfs or miscellaneous small trinkets, then turn them into a shirt or a piece of jewelry.
He was very handy with fabric, thread and a sewing needle. Many of the things Bartlow made to promote the exhibits’ merchandise in the museum were little works of art within themselves. This was a unique way of calling attention to not only the merchandise for sale in the museum’s gift shop, but to highlight the various exhibits spotlighted each season at the museum. Whether it was the King Tut exhibit, The Book of Kells in the 1970s or the rare papal art exhibit in the 1980s, Bartlow had a way of taking the motifs from each and creating a display of items to encouraging museum visitors to browse more closely, at least, if not only to buy.
Bartlow enjoyed working for the San Francisco Museums for so many years. Yet his heart was in all things artistic and creative. Recalling the San Francisco of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, he was always enthralled by San Francisco, its history, its culture and the vitality of its diversity among all its people. When the plans for the demolition of the Fox Theatre on Market Street were made known in the 1960s, he was among those who organized a protest to try to save it.
He was present to many of the trends, issues and historical events that have occurred over the past 50 years. He witnessed both the de Young and the Legion of Honor’s transformation into the new state-of-the-art museum venues they are today, aiming towards the 21st century. Bartlow felt privileged to have experienced this transformation and other significant events while in San Francisco.
His love of the arts, theatre and crafts of various kinds, never ceased.
He and his wife, Shirin lived in the City for many years until his retirement from the Museum, almost 20 years ago.
When they moved to Weed, California, in the Mount Shasta area, they both made the adjustment to retirement in a more rural setting with a slower pace of life. While they did miss the City, especially during cold winters, they both enjoyed the picturesque views of Mount Shasta and a love of gardening.
In 2009, after more than 50 years of marriage, Shirin lost her battle with cancer. Bartlow was at her side. Not to be overcome with grief and loss, Bartlow continued in the things they loved most together: the arts, culture, craft making, gracious living and gardening.
In the past few years, Bartlow’s zest for life slowed down due to heart trouble and a long struggle with asthma. He had been in and out of the hospital and then a nursing home just prior to his death. His son, Jeb did not provide any further details such as to a memorial service, etc. Yet, he was sorry to say his father had died.
Joseph Bartlow, Sr. is remembered as definitely one of the unique and creative people that made San Francisco the special place it was and is still today.