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Wilfrid Sheed, novelist and satirical essayist, dies at 80

January 19, 2011 |  4:24 pm

Novelist and essayist Wilfrid Sheed, the English-born American satirical writer known for tackling jazz, baseball, and journalism, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Massachusetts. He was 80.

The cause was an infection called urosepsis, said stepdaughter Phoebe Alexis Ungerer. She said he also had long suffered from polio and more recently cancer of the mouth.

Born in London on Dec. 27, 1930, to prominent Catholic publishers, Sheed was the author of a number of books, including "A Middle Class Education," ''Square's Progress," and "People Will Always Be Kind." He often wrote about a broad range of subjects, from characters wrestling with their Roman Catholic beliefs to his own battles with disease and addiction in his memoir, "In Love With Daylight: A Memory of Recovery."

His last book, "The House That George Built: With a Little Help From Irving, Cole and a Crew of About Fifty," was published in 2007 and was billed as a history of American popular music.

Sheed also was part of a team that won a 1987 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for "The Voice: The Columbia Years, 1943-1952," performed by Frank Sinatra.

"He was a beautiful and understanding and wonderful person," said Ungerer from her home in Great Barrington, Mass.

Ungerer said Sheed recently had moved from a Long Island nursing home to one in Great Barrington.

Sheed's family moved to the U.S. from England 10 years after his birth to escape World War II and settled in a suburb of Philadelphia. He later returned to England to attend Lincoln College, Oxford, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees.

He is survived by his second wife, Miriam Ungerer Sheed, who lived with him for many years on Long Island. He is also survived by a sister, Rosemary Luke Sheed Middleton; three children from his first marriage to Maria Bulitt Darlington that ended in divorce; two stepdaughters and four grandchildren.

The family said Sheed's last wish was to have his gravestone engraved with the words, "He wrote some good sentences."

-- Associated Press