Sheila Sellers taught me to live life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

The first time I met her, I thought to myself "who is this short woman and why is she so loud?"

It was during Sheriff Diane Harris' first run for office way back in the 1990's.

As it turned out, she was Sheila Sellers.

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Over the next several years, I got to know Sheila while covering the sheriff's office.

She was always quick with a smile and a "Hey, Jay," and generally if I felt down about anything, she could perk me up.

When I took the editor's job here at the Advocate, one of the first people I called was Sheila.

And for the last

18 months, about every three weeks, she would give me a call. It was always a good natured call telling me how she liked something I had written in this space or a story I had covered.

We would chat for a few minutes and I'd find myself laughing.

When I got extremely sick in December 2003 and was hospitalized with a high fever, Sheila was quick to call and check on me.

She often referred to me by saying, "that's our boy."

The last time I saw her was just before the Greenville Christmas parade.

She was bundled up for the cold and was anxious to throw some toys from her mini-van as part of the Butler County Sheriff's Auxiliary.

I was initially in the vehicle with her and Mattie Neese but then decided I would switch over to the Sheriff's vehicle.

While waiting for the parade to start she mentioned she would be throwing out some small toys here and there and I laughed as she and the sheriff argued that it should only be candy.

It was never clear who won the argument but I'm pretty sure that some children along the parade route got some little toys.

That was Sheila, bucking the system, doing what she thought was best.

That's a good way to live your life I guess.

So after sending the paper to press this past Tuesday night, I went to my parents' in Midway for a quick bite of dinner and to watch American Idol.

I had not told anyone where I was going and when the phone rings, Mom said it was Greenville News calling.

A chill went up my spine because I knew for someone here to pull out my parents' number, they desperately needed to get with me.

As it turns out, it was Mary Tatum and she told me that Sheila had died in a collision not far from her home.

I simply sat down and kept repeating, "Oh my God." My immediate thoughts went to Sheriff Harris, her deputies and the members fo the Sheriff's Auxiliary.

They all relied on this short, loud woman for so much and their biggest cheerleader is know longer with us.

On the drive to town, I realized that I had lost a very dear friend myself.

So when I got to finally see the sheriff in the Winn-Dixie parking lot on Wednesday, I hugged her tight for she had lost her dearest friend.

What a lesson in courage, determination, patience, and love that Sheila taught me without her ever realizing it.

No matter what she came against, she fought it. Through all her trials she never gave up. She reminded me of the little engine that said, "I think I can, I think I can, I can."  

She never lost her coolŠ.her perseverance.  She kept her sense of humor and loved to laugh. The smile on her face and the twinkle in her eyes made sunshine in your soul.

So after reading this and when you say your prayers tonight, remember Sheila's entire family. And remember, families aren't always those that we are akin to by blood.

And please spare a thought and prayer for Sheila as well.

I know I will see this woman again one day and I know that her smile will be one of the first I see in Heaven.

Rest in peace, my dear, sweet, loud short friend…from your boy!

Jay Thomas is managing editor of the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 382-3111, ext. 136 or via email at