She was a kindly woman, full of intelligence, politically astute (to the left, thank god), tempered with wit and warmth. Her house was like that and the welcome was why the kids wanted to be there. She sat with them, talked to them, quietly played games with them and helped raise a generation or two. Sheila had her own children: Kelly, a physician, and Dewey II, a guy who, like his dad, can do just about anything. She had grand kids and great grand kids and she always had the neighbors' children.
When my favorite ex-wife, Christina and I lived next door to Sheila and her wonderful husband (61 years), Dewey, my grandgirl Madeline liked to visit us so she could see "the old people next door." Dewey even imported a coop full of chickens a few years ago, not for the eggs so much as for the open invitation to the neighborhood kids to come and visit, play with the girls.
Sheila and Dewey grew up together in Mullens, W.Va., and they were never far from home in their hearts. Dewey remained so involved there after the flood of 1985, that the governor named him the West Virginia senior volunteer of the year a few years ago--while he was living in Virginia. He would be gone for days at a time, helping rebuild and all he got from Sheila was support.
Dewey joined the Norfolk and Western Railway out of college and moved with his young family to Roanoke. Sheila made the home here. A good home, created by a good woman.
I visited Sheila a few weeks ago to speak to her book club and, as it turned out, it was a goodbye visit. She was tired and ill even then, but she made us all feel welcome, joined in the brisk conversation and was fully and warmly engaged. Her friends--it was obvious--loved her. They prepared the lunch, arranged the seating and got the house ready. One told me that the club had been moved to Sheila's house because of her immobility and the fact that it wouldn't be much of a book club without her.
I know those women--and a lot of other people--are feeling her loss today. I certainly am.