• Kevin Hessel

Harriet Burns Sherwin


Harriet Burns Sherwin, a resident of Belvedere from 1963 until 1990, died peacefully Wednesday morning, July 24 at Manor Care in Sunnyvale. She was 89.

Born Harriet McDonnell Burns in San Francisco in 1929 of pioneer stock (her grandmother, Harriet Keenan Toner, was a grandniece of Peter Donahue, the early San Francisco industrialist), Harriet grew up in San Mateo with her parents, Dr. Thomas Stanley Burns and Margaret Toner Burns, and her siblings Thomas, Joseph and Margaret Mary. She attended Notre Dame in Belmont from first grade through high school, graduating in 1947, after which she attended U. C. Berkeley, joining the Delta Gamma sorority and graduating from Cal with a BA in 1951.

After graduate studies, she became a reading specialist in the San Rafael City Schools, where she served for many years. Returning to Berkeley to undertake doctoral studies, she wrote her dissertation under the direction of Staten Webster on the topic of Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy, obtaining her doctorate in 1973. She would subsequently teach at both S.F. State University and the University of Hawaii in Hilo.

It was during her studies at Berkeley that Harriet met Elton B. Sherwin of Sacramento, whom she married in 1953 and with whom she would raise three sons: Elton B. Sherwin Jr. of Menlo Park, Thomas S. Sherwin of Sausalito and the Rev. Michael S. Sherwin, o.p. of Fribourg, Switzerland. During their over sixty years of marriage, Harriet and Elton would live first in Sacramento and then in Belvedere, before stays in Hilo, Hawaii and South Bend, Indiana.

She was animated by her love of knowledge, her deep faith and her passion for education. Upon becoming a widow in 2013, Harriet became a resident of Villa Siena in Mountain View, where she lived until her last illness.

She is survived by her three sons; her sister-in-law, Jeanne Burns Smith of Santa Rosa; her daughter-in-law, Katharine Sherwin of Menlo Park; and her granddaughters Katie and Elizabeth, as well as by nieces Jennifer Burns of Napa and Stephanie (Pat Henderson) Burns of Sonoma, and nephew John (Alison) Burns of Napa. Visitation, rosary and funeral mass were held at the Chapel of Villa Siena on Saturday, July 2

7th, followed by the Rite of Committal at St. Dominic’s Cemetery in Benicia. Memorial contributions can be sent to the Villa Siena Foundation, 1855 Miramonte Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040.


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