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Obituary: Shelly Garrett

Michelle ‘Shelly’ Hunt Sovern Garrett

Aug. 30, 1953 – April 16, 2019

Shelly Sovern Garrett, 65, of Lebanon, left this planet on April 16, 2019, in Albany.

While her body stopped working, her spirit remains in every nook and cranny of the town she called home. She was a champion of Lebanon, business, and community.

She was born Aug. 30, 1953, at a very young age, to Enid Ethel and Ray Sovern, in Whittier, Calif. She grew up in Alhambra, Calif., and graduated from Alhambra High School in about 1971. She was the youngest of four, and absolutely adored. Her three older brothers were Dale, Jack, and Larry.

In her early 20s, she was working at Edison in Pomona and while touring the substation, she saw Leroy Garrett and immediately fell in love – it was electric. Shelly was tenacious and persistent at everything she did, including courting Leroy. She would visit him at work and bring him a Coke. After they married in 1975, she followed him in a car while he jogged 5 miles.

When Leroy retired from Edison after 30 years, they moved to Lebanon in 1994 – Shelly thought it was a better place to raise their son, Shawn.

Shelly took a job working with Charlie Eads at KGAL radio station. Charlie taught her everything she knew about sales. She had a license plate frame that read, “I sell air.” She remained fiercely loyal to Charlie. She sold ads and voiced them. Shelly had a good voice for radio and was easy to listen to. Once a farmer claimed he just about drove out of the field listening to that “sexy voice” on the radio for a Donna Bella lingerie ad.

Though she was paid well at KGAL the pull of public service to Lebanon was too great for her to pass up the opportunity to manage the chamber. She took the job as chamber director and ran with it, increasing membership and engagement – and thereby contributing to the success of the community as a whole. Her passion and enthusiasm for Lebanon was clear. She was dynamic, articulate and sold Lebanon well, because she believed in it.

And Shelly really was an amazing saleswoman. She sold a map – even spaces on the floor at the annual Biz Expo, which she started, and it blossomed into a wildly successful and anticipated event. She could sell ice to an Eskimo.

Shelly’s list of accolades in both volunteer and civic achievements is incredible. She had a gift to recognize the resources and talents of others, and leverage that to make Lebanon what it is today.

She served many years on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, and was a member of Rotary, Kiwanis Club, and the United Way board. She was elected in 2012 and served on the board of directors for Linn-Benton Community College, representing Lebanon for seven years. She was honored as Lebanon’s Woman of the Year in 2005, and was nominated that same year for Jim Linhart First Citizen Award.

She had a heart for her community and could be counted on for anything. She founded the Tools of the Trade Medical Bag Donation program, welcoming student doctors to Lebanon’s medical school, COMP-Northwest. With that “sexy voice” of hers, she emceed nonprofit events from the Strawberry Festival Grand Parade and Coronation, to the Soroptimist Walk for the Cause to the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon – even in the cold and wet and rain, she brought sunshine to tired finishers crossing the line.

Shelly is a recipient of the Ron Looney Leadership Award, the COMP-Northwest Heart of the Community Crystal Award, as well as the executive director and fearless leader of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce since 2009.

While on the LBCC board, she helped make the LBCC Advanced Transportation Center a reality. She worked tireless to advocate for the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home, including campaigning to help get the levy passed that supported the home’s construction. She worked with Larry Mullins on the design and building of Lebanon’s Boulder Falls Inn and Events Center.

When presented with the conference center design, she told Larry, “We’re not building this. This won’t be big enough.” They doubled the size on her recommendation.

Shelly brought out the best in everyone around her. She was big in heart. She never – well, almost never – made anyone feel small, but instead lifted everyone up. She lifted Lebanon up. She was a fundraiser. That woman raised money. She had an instinct for what would work and what wouldn’t. Her instincts were spot on. She was a model Chamber director, she made Lebanon a chamber to be admired.

It didn’t matter if you were a small, one-person business, you were treated with as much respect as a large successful business.

One of her pastimes on a rainy, dreary day was to reorganize her closets. Leroy wasn’t sure where the organization was. She had two walk-in closets that she loved to reorganize.

She loved QVC and Dress Barn. She had two hobbies: buying clothes and shoes.

She liked to gamble – particularly blackjack. She enjoyed painting, and tried her hand at wood burning. She enjoyed pottery, and made quite a few plates she used in her house – the only fault of those was you couldn’t put them in the microwave.

She was a proud political conservative – woman in business.

She once had a midget parrot, Barney. Leroy would like it on the record that he did not have anything to do with the dogs.

She was preceded in death by a ’69 fastback Mustang and her parents.

She is survived by her husband, Leroy; beloved son Shawn; brothers Dale, Larry, and Jack; nieces and nephews; and her blind, giant clown dog Riley.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to SafeHaven Humane Society, 32220 Old Highway 34, Tangent, OR 97389.

A celebration of life will be at 3:30 p.m. on April 30 at the River Center, 3000 S. Santiam Hwy in Lebanon. Doors open at 3. Everyone is welcome.