Norman “Skip” Sheffield Jr., a longtime Boca Raton resident, entertainment writer for the now defunct Boca Raton News and local arts enthusiast, died unexpectedly of natural causes in his home on July 21. He was 69.
Sheffield’s storied career capturing the evolving arts and entertainment bubble in South Florida left a lasting imprint in the community, friends and family say.
He started with the Boca Raton News as a 13-year-old paperboy, eventually working his way through multiple departments before trying his hand at writing. He held writing and editing positions at the paper until it folded in 2009.
“He loved to write,” his sister, Sheila Platt, said from her home on Long Island. “He loved interviewing unusual people. That was a special love of his. He would find someone with an interesting story to tell.”
Up until his death, he wrote for The Boca Raton Tribune, which honored Sheffield by publishing multiple pieces recalling the late writer in July.
His coverage of theater, film and music branded him in the community as a champion of the arts. As the local scene grew, so did Sheffield’s involvement.
He wrote reviews of productions performed at Boca Raton’s Wick Theater, films that screened at various theaters and festivals, and profiles of interesting players in the local arts world.
Sheffield’s unique view of Boca Raton, gained through five decades of living and working in the city since he moved there as a teen in 1959, prompted vocal advocacy against over-development in the city.
“It became ingrained in him to try and guard against unwise over-expansion,” Platt said. “It stemmed from those early memories of Boca.”
Sheffield’s fondness for Boca Raton is evident in the mementos he left behind, said his eldest daughter Mary Gentry, an English instructor at Florida Atlantic University.
When Sheffield learned a building was facing demolition, he would keep a piece of it — a sign, a flyer, or some other memorabilia.
“He held onto everything,” Gentry said.
Over the years, he’s donated some of the memorabilia to the Boca Raton Historical Society. He coordinated the donation of some 8,000 Boca Raton News photographs primarily from the 1980s and 1990s to the historical society shortly before the newspaper folded.
“Skip was a real Boca pioneer and longtime journalist,” the historical society wrote in a Facebook post, adding that the photos “would have gone into the trash without Skip.”
Sheffield’s interest in arts writing branched from a love of music and film that began as a child. He played bass and guitar with brothers Richard and John in the Sheffield Brothers Band for more than 40 years.
When he wasn’t writing, you’d find Sheffield surfing, riding his bicycle to the beach or traveling.
He graduated from Seacrest High School in 1965, from Florida Southern College in 1969 and from Florida Atlantic University with a masters degree in 1973.
Sheffield is survived by daughters Mary (Aaron Gentry), Laura (Ash Otocki) and Anna (Negean Mohi), grandson Milo Gentry, brothers Richard (Leslie), John and David (Julie), and sister Sheila (John Platt).
A memorial service is planned Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Boca Raton.
Donations in Skip’s memory can be made to the Boca Raton Historical Society or the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association.