Dr. Sheldon Wayne Grinnell died on July 7, 2019 peacefully at Queen of the Valley Hospital surrounded by his family. He was born in Bottineau, North Dakota on April 26th, 1928 to Swanhild Friswold Grinnell and John E. Grinnell, a rising academic. He was toughened in infancy by his mother’s use of child-rearing techniques from a government manual which included placing the infant in a room with an open window, even in the North Dakota winter. As a child, he loved exploring the woods with his two brothers, Robin and Alan, a display of early independence and spirit of adventure.
He spurned academia and enlisted in the Navy after high school. He became a corpsman at the Great Lakes Naval Base Hospital, where he became interested in medicine. Following discharge, he worked in a tractor factory and acquired a motorcycle. He horrified his quiet family with his exploits. After being hit by a car and suffering skull and leg fractures, he was persuaded by his father to attend the local Indiana State Teaching College. With the help of the VA he later graduated from the University of Indiana School of Medicine.
Dr. Grinnell re-joined the Navy, this time as an officer. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton where his favorite weekend activities were searching for snakes in the Mojave Desert and camping on the beaches of Baja California. In 1957-58 he was the sole medical officer at Wilkes Station in Operation Deep Freeze and has an island in Antarctica—Grinnell Island—named after him.
Following his service, he completed a residency in psychiatry at San Francisco’s Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute. He then joined the staff at Mendocino Hospital in 1962, where he met his wife, Maureen, who was also working at the hospital. He and Maureen married in 1963, and for their honeymoon drove to Mexico City in a VW bug. The newlyweds moved to Napa where Sheldon worked as a psychiatrist at Napa State Hospital. He completed a fellowship in child psychiatry at East Bay Clinic for Child Psychiatry in Berkeley. He returned to Napa State Hospital where he was a dedicated child and adult psychiatrist until his retirement in 2011. Not only did he treat mentally ill children, but also directed the child psychiatry residency program.
Dr. Grinnell was a member of the Napa County Medical Society, California Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the North Bay Psychiatric Association. Following his retirement in 2011, he enjoyed volunteering with Friends of the Library and writing his monograph, Social Instincts. His interests included science, art, wine, single malt scotch, backpacking, nature, scientific collections of seashells and fossils, wilderness, collecting thousands of books, and building a nature trail on his property on Atlas Peak Road. He lived on Atlas Peak until October 2017, when he barely escaped the Atlas Fire with his wife and his granddaughter, Emma. He and Maureen then moved to Yountville where he continued to read and write.
Dr. Grinnell was devoted to his family including his wife, five children and nine grandchildren. He is survived by his wife Maureen, his children, Brian, Gavin, Colin, Sean, and Megan Mc Williams, their spouses, Jennifer, Laura, Sara Flocks, Michelle and Ryan McWilliams, and his grandchildren Emma, Nathan, Riley, Kellan, Quinn, Jack, Jamie, Darren and Cameron, and his brothers Robin and Alan.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Queen of the Valley Hospital, 1000 Trancas Street, Napa, California 94558 which cared so often and well for him, or to a charity of the donor’s choice. Private graveside services will be held.
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