Remembering Shanley Lett
She pulled us together. Winter potluck or summer party, you’d be approached by a cheerful woman in a visor, camera in hand. “Wait, stop,” she’d say, gathering us closer for a photo or two. Now, at a time when we’re kept apart, memories of Shanley connect us.
Shanley Lett’s death earlier this year is a huge loss for the Lopez Island Yacht Club. “Her pictures brought the club to life,” says Lori Taylor. “Even those like me who’ve never been on a club cruise experienced them through her photos.” Her “Year in Review” each April was always well attended, filled with pictures you never knew she’d taken. And she always made you feel special. “Did you bring your apple berry crisp?” she’d ask Jackie Ashe at every potluck.
For 17 years Shanley edited the club’s monthly Newsline. “She came up with a lot of the content,” recalls past club secretary Gayle\ Beller. “Advertising, typing, layout, making copies, mailing, she did it all! And at Board meetings she was a very smart presence, full of good ideas.”
Jerry Hancock, 2011 Commodore, voiced many members’ descriptions of Shanley: “She had the ability to provide a fun time without taking the credit.” Jerry remembers how she rescued him from a Winter Holiday disaster when she offered her “closet full of decorations”, complete with silver trays and tiny skaters on mirrors for each table. Always upbeat, her enthusiasm was infectious. One year she persuaded Cyndi Fessler and her husband Steve to join the 10-day North Cruise, even though their boat was only 26 feet with a cramped V-berth. “We had the most fantastic time, and Shanley was with us when we popped the bottle of champagne at the cruise’s end.” Paul Sands agrees: “Shanley encouraged me to join my nephew in Spain to refurbish his boat, and I did it thanks to her.”
Though she took thousands of pictures, Shanley was rarely in them. But the images of her in our minds are as clear as any photo. Shanley raising her camera to her face. Shuffling a deck-and-a-half of cards with ease. Telling stories about her cats and Lucy, her pet deer. Her glance when she wasn’t sure she agreed with you but wanted you to know that all was well. Her visored head in the crowded clubhouse, leaving smiles and new friendships in her wake.
~ Migael Scherer
Migael Scherer is the author of four books and numerous essays that range from the literary to the practical, including “A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juans.” An experienced mariner, Migael and her husband lived aboard a sailboat for 35 years and now makes her home on Lopez Island. She is a contributing author to the Newsline.