They told different stories, but each speaker at the memorial service for Shelly Garrett ended up conveying the same idea: this California native had become the city of Lebanon’s most passionate advocate.
The service was held Tuesday, April 30, at the River Center to honor Garrett, who died on April 16 at age 65. She had served as the executive director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce since 2007 but had taken on the role of community cheerleader long before that.
Marty Cahill, CEO of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, joked that when he learned Garrett had been named to lead the chamber, he said “I thought that was already her job.”
Pastor Lynn Koehn shared the eulogy, telling the story of how Garrett met her husband, Leroy, and with him and their young son Shawn, settled in Lebanon in 1994.
“Without question, Shelly knew her God-ordained life adventure included Lebanon, Oregon. She was faithful to love and serve the people of Lebanon and to play a major role in the forward progression of our city,” Koehn said.
Charlie Eads remembered Garrett’s early days working for him at KSHO Radio. Eads thanked those who attended the memorial for taking the time to remember his friend and colleague.
“I’m very proud, I know Shelly would be pleased. It made her very happy when lots of folks showed up for her events,” Eads said, drawing a laugh from the knowing audience.
Eads recalled Garrett’s drive and the remarkable impact she had on the station. She started out as a telemarketer, which can be a very dispiriting task. It wasn’t for Garrett, who made an immediate impact and ultimately moved up to become the sales manager at the station.
Eads said that even while she was setting sales records for the station, Garrett found time to become increasingly involved in the community. She chaired a successful United Way drive, developed a local National Day of Prayer event, joined the boards of several local organizations and was named Lebanon Woman of the Year.
“You always knew where you stood with Shelly. She was a wonderful friend, she is missed by so many. We love you, Shelly,” Eads said.
Garrett carried on a long fake feud with City Councilor Rebecca Grizzle, trading insults back and forth on Facebook. Grizzle mourned the loss of her friendly rival.
“I’m angry. I’m angry that Shelly is gone,” Grizzle said.
Grizzle said there had long been plans to hold a community roast for Garrett, but it was never held. She had lots of material ready to go for that event and said she was going to draw from that at the memorial.
Instead, Grizzle chose another source, the nomination letter she had written in support of Garrett for Senior First Citizen in advance of this year’s Distinguished Service Awards.
“There is no other person more central to business, education, nonprofits and the community in general than Shelly,” Grizzle wrote. “The fact is, we wouldn’t have the vibrant, growing community we have, if not for the passion and enthusiasm she has.”
Dr. Paula Crone, dean of the Western University of Health Sciences, COMP Northwest campus, and Greg Hamann, the president of Linn-Benton Community College, each noted the key role that Garrett played in paving the way for their institutions in Lebanon.
Garrett was part of the initial group of civic leaders to travel to Pomona, Calif., to meet with the leaders of the Western University of Health Sciences.
"I always laugh when I think of that meeting. I'm sure President (Philip) Pumerantz didn't know what hit him. But like all of us, he fell in love with Shelly, too. And in doing so, he fell in love with Lebanon," Crone said. "From the start, she was brainstorming how to make our students feel welcome and part of Lebanon. She came up with the idea of the Tools of the Trade program, a symbol of community and of healing."
Hamann recalled how valuable Garrett was as a member of the LBCC Board of Trustees. She went out of her way to make sure that Hamann was on a first-name basis with Lebanon's community leaders.
"It is no stretch of the imagination or the facts to acknowledge that LBCC's expanded presence here in Lebanon is a direct result of her matchmaking," Hamann said.
Carol Cromwell, the chief executive officer of the Linn-Co Federal Credit Union, became one of Garrett's closest friends as they traveled together, sometimes to events promoting the city and sometimes just for fun.
"Being with Shelly was really an adventure," Cromwell said. "She was very fun, she was witty, quick to laugh. We had so much great adventures going on shopping trips, conferences, fundraising, all those things."
Garrett is survived by her husband and son, brothers Dale, Larry and Jack, nieces and nephews, and her beloved dog, Riley.