When news broke that actress Carrie Fisher had died in late December, Shelley Gabert was heartbroken. When Fisher’s mother, singer-actress Debbie Reynolds, passed away the next day, Shelley Gabert was incensed.
These were people whose art she admired, whose personalities she appreciated. Shelley had made a living — and a life — of tracking the lives of artists and celebrities, telling stories about their passions. That work was her passion. Watching part of the spectacle she had spent her career chronicling end was — at best — an inexplicable disappointment.
Three weeks later, we began to understand how she felt. Shelley’s death was unexpected and — at best — inexplicable. The woman was her own spectacle.
Years in Los Angeles, New York and St. Louis reporting on the entertainment scene had made their impression on the girl from California, Missouri. No matter her current project, Shelley approached every day as the struggle of an actress pulling her way upward from D-list to Oscar-worthy, of an aspiring performer making a stage of every moment – as we knew her, of a community storyteller searching for the right subjects and the right words to reflect not just the daily life but the heart of Mid-Missouri.
She gave the same gravitas to every story, and made it her obsession until she had completed it. But she was especially proud of certain stories.
In Rebecca Welsh, founder and executive director of HALO, she found a kindred spirit whose passion for providing healing for people in desperate situations mirrored her own passion for telling the stories of people on both sides of those equations.
In Sara Evans, Shelley identified with an artist who rose to the Billboard charts from small-town Missouri. In Shelley’s words, the New Franklin-native country singer’s breakout single “Born to Fly” was “one of her best and most autobiographical songs about growing up in rural Mid-Missouri and longing to spread her wings.”
In the Martin family, Shelley highlighted the homegrown talent the four sisters of the Bluegrass Martins have taken on the road while continuing to share it right here at home.
After spreading her own rural Mid-Missouri wings, Shelley came home to be near her family, whom she loved dearly. She mentioned her mother, Judy, almost daily. Her nephew and niece, Zach and Taylor, were a continually unfolding story she couldn’t get enough of. And her cats, Spike and Little Cat, were her preferred companions.
She also acted as head and maestro of the HER Magazine family, and her Central Missouri Newspapers family misses her already.
Shelley Gabert was an original, and there’s no replacing her. But we in her professional family find comfort and inspiration moving forward in the words she used to describe herself: “At the end of the day I’m a storyteller, and no matter where I am physically I’m drawn to finding compelling subjects to share with others.”