LETTER: Saying goodbye to Shawn Lamb

From reader Anne DeGrace

To receive a half-smile and a wink from Shawn Lamb was a gift. To me, it said: I see you; I get you; I like you. It was a funny, idiosyncratic gesture that spoke volumes about kindness and inclusion, the very essence of Shawn.

I attended the Touchstones reception to remember this beloved, foundational community member, which was lovely — but of course COVID-19 protocols meant we wouldn’t all jam in there for shared tributes from an open mic. So I’m writing to share my small story. I know there are hundreds more that illustrate Shawn’s generosity of spirit.

From the time I moved to Nelson in the early 1980s, Shawn seemed always to be there with some sort of support: connecting me with paid or volunteer opportunities that would help me make friends and find community; encouraging ideas and creativity; listening with a non-judgmental, sympathetic ear. Over time I became involved with the Nelson and District Arts Council, so we saw a lot of each other for a number of years. The museum was always a welcoming place, the kettle whistling away in the cramped alcove downstairs.

It was Shawn who, when I mentioned wanting to write some short stories based on Renata, enthusiastically connected me with former Renata residents and found me much of the historic information I needed to write what was to become my first novel, Treading Water. But more than that, she told me I could do it — and I believed her.

She appears in the acknowledgements for the coffee table photographic books about Nelson that Steve Thornton and I put together, as I know she does in acknowledgements for countless books and other productions. If she could help anyone achieve a goal, she was there with knowledge, advice, and wisdom. She truly left her mark, in these and so many other ways.

In the new book Anecdotal Evidence: Fred Rosenberg, Nelson Photographs there is a beautiful photo of Shawn singing. It is all heart, the way she did most things, and it’s a lovely image to hold of her as we say goodbye.

Anne DeGrace