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Obituary of Shannon L. Garrett
Shannon L. Garrett, 70 years young, surrounded by her family and friends, peacefully slipped away from us into the arms of both her son, Garrett, and her mom around midnight on May 8, 2018. During her six-month battle with cancer, Shannon received an enormous amount of love and support from you, her friends and family. Despite her health struggle, Shannon made the conscious choice to make her days happy ones. She chose to laugh when so many would have cried. She chose to love life and lived it the best she knew how, when many would have given up and given in. She saw “miracles and perfection” as she called it in all of God’s creations around her and in each one of us. She loved every one of us so completely that it filled us up to the brim and couldn’t help but to spill over onto those around us. She touched our lives so profoundly that words fail to give it true expression.
A Memorial and Celebration of her Life will be conducted by family and friends and held at the Woman’s Club of Olympia, 1002 Washington St. SE in Olympia, WA on Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 5pm. There will be a potluck afterward so please bring a dish you know Shannon loved or one you would love to share. It will be a time to mourn, share memories, see old friends, heal ourselves, sing, and celebrate the life of an incredible woman whose radiant love touched us deeply and changed each of our lives for the better. Come as you are in whatever attire, casual or dress. You can just be the you Shannon loved and cherished.
Shannon Lee Garrett (also known as Shannon Burns and Shannon Hosman) was born on January 23, 1948 in Anchorage, Alaska to Helen Gochnauer and Jack Garrett. Shannon’s parents divorced when she was a year old. When Shannon was three years old, Helen married Bob Burns. Shortly thereafter, the three of them moved to Homer, Alaska to convince fishermen to fish for king crab in their off season. Believe it or not, nobody really ate king crab back then in Alaska and Shannon’s mom and stepdad had the idea of making king crab popular. When a storm that damaged the fishing boats used for crabbing hit, the newfound business went belly up. So, they took a new enterprise and opened the Little Dipper in Girdwood, Alaska. Shannon spent the next four years of her life in the little community of about 100 folks. The Little Dipper was the gathering place of the community. It was a hotel, restaurant, bar, and had the only gas pump for miles around.
In addition to operating the Little Dipper, Shannon’s mother Helen, as well as others in the community, appealed to Anchorage to have a schoolhouse and a teacher for their children. Including Shannon, there were only six elementary aged children and they needed a minimum of seven to qualify. Fortunately, a child willingly repeated 6th grade so they could qualify. The community built a one-room schoolhouse with an apartment in the back for the teacher. Shannon loved Miss Edith Lincoln, her teacher, an adventurous young woman, who drove all the way to Alaska from the East Coast. Miss Lincoln introduced Shannon to the wonderful world of Winnie the Pooh by reading aloud to her and giving different voices for each of the characters. Shannon passed this tradition on, to the delight of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Her best friend was Dolly Hibbs and they were inseparable. Shannon’s fondest childhood memories were of Girdwood, the people she loved there and the beauty of nature all around her. Shannon’s 8th and 9th years were a grand adventure as her family drove down through the United States and spent a year traveling around Mexico. When they returned to Girdwood, she took two years of school in one year so she’d be all caught up.
Around 10 years old, she and her mom moved to Anchorage after her mother separated from her stepdad. Moving to Anchorage was very difficult for Shannon since she was an outdoor girl and the city life didn’t suit her much. She says she bumbled along the next few years in school and among her peers but cherished the time spent with her mom. When she was not in school, Shannon worked at her mom’s women’s apparel shop, Shanteri’s, at the corner of 5th and D Street. She also modeled clothing for the store’s advertisements in the newspaper.
At 16, Shannon met Dale Hosman, and they married in the spring of 1964. They had two children, Gina Lorraine and Sean Brian Dean. Shannon had always wanted to be a mom (and actually dreamed of having 12 children) so she soaked up Gina and Sean as she loved and cared for them. Shannon graduated from West High School in 1968. A year later, Shannon and Dale were divorced. Shannon worked at Shanteri’s, then went to Anchorage Community College to earn her LPN. While in Anchorage, Shannon became involved in the grassroots political movement that became known as “Ad Hoc,” an organization that revolutionized the Alaska political landscape, and helped create many of the progressive laws that still exist today in Alaska. Being involved with Ad Hoc, Shannon met and made a lot of friends. One of them was Jim Kelly, a man she dated and lived with off and on for the next few years.
In her children’s younger years, she became “Mom” to many of their neighborhood friends. She loved going to Seward for the 4th of July celebration, having picnics, playing cards and games, and making each holiday magic for her children. With her LPN, Shannon worked at Anchorage Psychiatric Institute for a time. In 1974, she moved her family back to Girdwood. She was at home in Girdwood, and shared her love of being out in God’s creations with her children. She took Gina and Sean on many walks down and around “old town” in Girdwood, where the Little Dipper once sat, and would tell them stories of her childhood while they walked. The following year, Shannon went to visit some friends in Juneau and ended up with two jobs, one as a page in the House of Representatives and the other to develop a cataloging system of the newly mandated audio recordings of the House and Senate sessions. The following legislative session, Shannon paved the way for women in the legislature when she became the second woman Sergeant at Arms in the House of Representatives. When the session was over, Shannon moved back to Anchorage and worked with her mom at Shanteri’s for a couple of years while remaining active in the politics in Alaska. In 1979, Shannon married Jim Kelly. From 1979 to 1982, Shannon worked for Rep. Thelma Buchholdt as her Administrative Assistant and split her time between Anchorage and Juneau.
Shannon’s favorite pastimes in Juneau with her family, friends, or with her furry friend, Mandy, included walking on Sandy Beach, fishing at Fish Creek, watching the sea birds and picking goose tongue on the Airport trail, walking up Basin Road and on the flume, having cookouts at Auke Rec, and discovering little critters in the tidepools. Shannon never lost her childlike wonder of the world so one couldn’t help but see that same wonder when with her. She experimented with photography through the years, taking photos of all she loved, people and nature. In Gina and Sean’s teen years, many of their friends called her “Mom.” She loved teenagers and they could feel it, so her home was the place they wanted to be. In 1982, Shannon and Jim had a son together, Garrett Erin. Wanting to be home to raise Garrett, Shannon remained in Juneau, and opted out of the workforce for the next few years. When Garrett was five years old, Shannon and Jim divorced.
Shannon spent the following year in Topeka, Kansas, attending college then moved to Olympia, Washington, where she spent the remainder of her life. She attended The Evergreen State College and worked various jobs until 1999 when she became the Career Center Education Assistant at Capital High School that her son, Garrett, attended. Known through the years as Ms. Garrett, Shannon was in her element at Capital because she was surrounded by teenagers and loved every single one of them. She saw a great potential in each of them and helped them see it in themselves. One student, who was one of the lost boys of Sudan, had a cousin who needed a temporary place to live so he asked Shannon if his cousin could stay with her. Shannon welcomed Pabior into her home for the next 13 years as she became his “Mom” too. Shannon’s westside home was home to many game nights with her friends and family, a tradition that lasted up until her passing.
During Garrett’s teen years, her home again became that place where he and his friends gathered and many called her “Mom.” They hung out in the “G-rage,” playing cards and engaging in mischievous fun. She supported their WWF days when her yard became a WWF arena with old mattresses, ladders, and boys’ bodies crashing into each other with vocal sound effects. As her family blossomed, Shannon and her mom, Helen, who lived with her, relished the many visits from her children and grandchildren. In 2008, Shannon’s mom, Helen, passed away. Shannon missed her and would often talk about her to her children and grandchildren who missed her as well. Shannon loved the ocean so, each year during Spring Break, she and her close friends spent the week at Ocean Shores walking the beach, gathering trinkets left by the tide, playing cards, and munching on locally made ice cream. In 2010, Shannon’s youngest son, Garrett, tragically passed away when he was only 28 years old. Even though her heartache at losing him was unbearable, Shannon continued to love and lift those around her wherever she went. At work, Shannon switched from being the Career Counselor to working in the Health Room as a Nurse Assistant. She continued to nurture and care for the students who came into the health room and most importantly, loved them just the way they were.
Shannon delighted in being a mom and a Mimi. She was herself no matter what. She was a lover of books and poetry. She relished nature she could walk in, nature she could tame with gardening, and nature she could watch on PBS. She was an NPR aficionado. Her favorite was Stewart McClain, the storyteller on The Vinyl Cafe. He shared real stories that she identified with and loved. She enjoyed finding shapes of everyday things in the clouds. At night, she loved to look at the moon and find the constellations in the stars. She was an Alaskan girl through and through. She loved to laugh at herself with an infectious laugh that made us all join in. She was a loyal friend and a hero to the underdog. Shannon loved each of us deeply and we were graced to know her. She has left an indelible impression upon our souls. May we do the same in her honor.
“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” -Winnie the Pooh