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Joseph Shaara

February 10, 1939 ~ September 13, 2023

Posted 9/19/23

Dr. Joseph Walter Shaara of Imperial Beach, California passed away on Wednesday, September 13 following a brief illness. He was 84.  

Joseph was born to Raphael “Ray” and Minnie …

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Joseph Shaara

February 10, 1939 ~ September 13, 2023


Dr. Joseph Walter Shaara of Imperial Beach, California passed away on Wednesday, September 13 following a brief illness. He was 84. 

Joseph was born to Raphael “Ray” and Minnie (Petrowsky) Shaara on February 10, 1939 in Callicoon, New York. He graduated from Jeffersonville Central School before attending St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary. From there, he transferred to State University of New York at Fredonia, where he earned a bachelor’s in music education. He went on to receive a master’s in education and a doctorate in psychology from United States International University (USIU) in San Diego.

A San Diego resident for 56 years, Joseph was a beloved and respected music teacher at South Bay School District for more than 30 years, educating generations of students with his trademark humor and consummate professionalism. Having learned his impressive musical skills from his father, Ray, Joseph was a virtuoso who played drums and piano in numerous bands in San Diego over the years. He also composed dozens of pop songs, a Requiem Mass, and he famously declined an offer to arrange the music for the first “Star Wars” film. 

A renaissance man who was always identifiable in a signature flat cap, Joseph possessed a rare combination of intelligence, curiosity, and humility. A student of existential thinkers from Jung to Kierkegaard, he could recite entire sections of philosophical text from memory with little effort. Over the years, he journeyed to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which still houses some of the most respected philosophical and theological books in the world. He was a member of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society of psychology, as well as Intertel and Colloquy, societies that recognize those with intelligence levels in the 99.5th percentile of the population. He also published two books and wrote volumes of poetry over his lifetime.

In addition to his impressive career accomplishments, Joseph was a man of deep faith and spent countless hours during his retirement poring over religious books/articles and making custom rosary beads and scapulars for friends and family. He maintained his unwavering faith until the end, which kept him vital and always engaged. The life of any party, Joseph could entertain people wherever he went with his disarming wit and intelligence. He was always generous with his time and gifts for family and friends, and he made it his mission to feed the homeless of Imperial Beach out of his own pocket for many years. 

The loss of Joseph is truly profound for those who knew and loved him. He is survived by two sisters, Virginia Jamieson of Pennsylvania and Helen Shaara of Tennessee, several nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, and his dear friend, Barbara Noyce, of Chula Vista. He was predeceased by his parents, sisters Anne Shaara and Mary Seidl, and a niece, Kathleen Jamieson.

A funeral Mass was held at St. Anne Catholic Church on Monday, September 18 at 10:30 a.m., followed by internment at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.

Joseph’s family would like to thank Sharp Hospice Care of San Diego for their compassion and professionalism in his final days. Donations may be made to the charity of one’s choice.