SigEp is saddened to announce the passing of Barbara Shanahan (8/24/1926 – 2/16/2021). For nearly 10 years, her professionalism and upbeat attitude made her a much-beloved and highly valued member of SigEp’s Headquarters staff. From filing to updating member records, she worked tirelessly to ensure that the Fraternity was always working with the most accurate information possible.
SigEp became like a second family to Shanahan and after leaving staff, she continued to keep in touch with her former coworkers, as well as many volunteers.
Former Executive Director Chuck White, Western Michigan ’62, recalled her deep love for and commitment to SigEp:
“Barbara was one of SigEp’s strongest cheerleaders. I remember that [my wife] Susan and I tried to have dinner with Barbara once a month, not just for dinner, but to trade SigEp gossip. She followed many past staff members, their families, their jobs and their volunteer work for SigEp, and she cared deeply for them. One of her brightest moments was attending the dedication of Kief House in 2018 and the celebration dinner that evening. SigEp is better because Barbara Shanahan was a believer.”
Chris Minnis, Truman State ’00, who also worked with Shanahan at Headquarters, spoke with fondness about some of the many ways she impacted the staff and the Fraternity.
“SigEp lost a tremendous supporter in past Headquarters staff member Barbara Shanahan,” Minnis stated. “Devout in her faith and deep in her love for Sigma Phi Epsilon, she was always quick with quip, willing to lend a hand and raise a glass to celebrate our Fraternity. St. Patrick’s Day at Zollinger House was always magical with her masterfully prepared corned beef and cabbage. For many a staff member, she was a third grandmother. She celebrated your wins, called you out on your stuff and loved you all the same. She’ll be dearly missed. We salute you, dear Granny Shanny!”
In her honor, we are sharing below a tribute written by Shanahan’s daughter, Kelly, and published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Brian C. Warren Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
Barbara, if she were still with us, would be the first to tell you she hated “this damn COVID” that cancelled her only grandchild’s college graduation ceremony and kept her from church and Ruth’s Chris happy hours with her friends. And this damn COVID did what three bouts of breast cancer, including a very recent diagnosis of metastatic spread to her bones and lungs, could not: silence this opinionated, wine loving, devout (yet liberal) Catholic, Energizer Bunny of a woman. Damn COVID, indeed.
Barbara was from East Rockaway on Long Island, New York, the fourth daughter of Arthur and Helene Dunn. She met her husband, Bill, while both were working for Banker’s Trust bank in NYC. Their daughter, Kelly, was born nine months and one day after their wedding and was named for their boss at the bank, which Kelly would have found a little suspicious if she didn’t look exactly like her dad. Bill’s jobs took them to Charlotte, Nashville, and finally, Richmond. Barbara was a stay-at-home mom until Kelly was in high school, when businesses such as Brown and Root, Media General, Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity headquarters and St. Edward Catholic Church were smart enough to hire someone who could take shorthand and type 100 words per minute.
A voracious reader, prolific knitter and avid golf fan, Barbara was an active member of her parish, volunteering for the annual Christmas toy drive and counting money after Sunday mass (but never bringing any home). When COVID restricted her normal activities and entertaining, her local Total Wine called to make sure she was OK and ask if she needed a booze delivery.
Waiting for Barbara in the great beyond are her parents, her three older sisters (Rose Connell, Peggy Wilson and Janet Massa), her husband Bill, and their second child, Timmy, who died three weeks before his third birthday, a pain that no parent should ever bear. She is survived by her daughter, Dr. Kelly Shanahan (and yes, she told everyone that her daughter was a doctor!), son-in-law Jeff Turney, granddaughter Hunter Turney (who called her LOL, for “Little Old Lady,” which is what happens if you don’t express a preference for Nana vs Granny vs any other traditional grandmother name when your pregnant only daughter asks what you want to be called!), and granddog Gryffindor of Lake Tahoe, California, and a multitude of nieces and nephews, grand, great-grand and even great-great-grand nieces and nephews who constructed the most God-awful Christmas gingerbread houses with her.
In honor of Barbara, raise a glass of good wine, wear a mask, get your COVID vaccine when you can, listen to some Barry Manilow (she was a HUGE fan and met him several times through her SigEp connections), and if you live in the Richmond area, get some Italian takeout from La Cucina, and tell Vito that Barbara sent you. In a few weeks, if you’re in the area of St. Edward’s you can swing by the columbarium and give Barbara a wave; she’ll be safely ensconced in her favorite Waterford biscuit barrel, bought in Ireland when she and Kelly visited the ancestral homeland 30+ years ago.
In Barbara’s memory please make a donation to METAvivor, where every penny will go to research to help those with metastatic breast cancer, like her daughter Kelly, who is on the board of directors. Indicate “in memory of Barbara Shanahan.”