Timber Dick daughter Charity Sunshine has double lung surgery, re-launches opera career

Westword feature subject Timber Dick left behind a magnificent legacy when he died in an April 2008 car accident -- eleven remarkable children.

But the latest accomplishment by Charity Sunshine, Timber's daughter, is impressive even by Dick family standards. A renowned opera singer, she recently performed for the first time since undergoing double-lung surgery.

Dick's children, all home-schooled by their mother Annette in a big, old North Denver house Timber had retrofitted with his offbeat inventions, were already well on their way to world domination when he died. Several were working for top Washington power brokers (the oldest, Tomicah, is now a speechwriter for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), others were jet-setting around the world for various causes and all of them joined forces after Timber's death to work on the IRIS engine, his last invention and the one they believed had the potential to transform the auto industry.

As for Charity Sunshine, she's belted out elaborate soprano melodies on stages worldwide, as well as creating original works like Facebook, the Musical. But her turn at the 2010 Patient Experience Summit at the Cleveland Clinic, the Ohio facility where her surgery took place, was more than simply another performance.

Several years ago, Charity was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a serious condition in which arteries in the lungs constrict, slowly cutting off blood supply. It made activities like walking up flights of stairs a challenge, much less performing opera.

Eventually, Charity had to put her singing career on hiatus, and in September 2009 she was flown to the Cleveland Clinic for the emergency surgery. What followed were months of grueling recovery; she had to re-learn how to breathe, eat, talk and walk. No one was certain she'd be able to sing again, but eventually she started humming. Then came simple songs.

Now she can handle Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me," which she sang last week to the hospital staff who cared for her. She'll continue to train, with hopes of one day soon taking the opera world by storm.

Knowing her family, she probably will. Here's a video of Charity in action.


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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner