The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Michelle 'Shelly' Hunt Sovern Garrett


April 24, 2019

Aug. 30, 1953 – April 16, 2019

Shelly Sovern Garrett, 65, of Lebanon, died April 16, 2019, in Corvallis.

The longtime executive of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, she was a champion of Lebanon, business and community.

She was born Aug. 30, 1953 in Whittier, Calif. to Enid Ethel and Ray Sovern. She grew up in Alhambra, Calif., graduating from Alhambra High School. She was the youngest of four, and absolutely adored. Her three older brothers were Dale, Jack and Larry.

She worked at Edison in Pomona, Calif. while in her early 20s. While touring a substation, she saw Leroy Garrett and immediately fell in love – it was electric.

Shelly was tenacious and persistent at everything she did, including courting Leroy. She would visit him at work and bring him a Coke. After they married in 1975, she followed him in a car while he jogged five miles.

When Leroy retired from Edison after 30 years, they moved to Lebanon in 1994. Shelly thought it was a better place to raise their son, Shawn.

Shelly took a job working with Charlie Eads at KGAL radio station. Charlie taught her everything she knew about sales. She had a license plate frame that read, "I sell air."

Though she was paid well at KGAL, the pull of public service to Lebanon was too great for her to pass up the opportunity to manage the chamber.

She took the job as chamber director and ran with it, increasing membership and engagement – and thereby contributing to the success of the community as a whole. Her passion and enthusiasm for Lebanon were clear. She was dynamic, articulate and sold Lebanon well, because she believed in it.

She sold a map – even spaces on the floor at the annual Biz Expo, which she started, and it blossomed into a wildly successful and anticipated event. She could sell ice to an Eskimo.

Shelly's had a gift in her ability to recognize the resources and talents of others, and leverage that to make Lebanon what it is today.

She served many years as a board member for the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, and the United Way, and was a member of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. In 2012 she was elected and served on the board of Linn-Benton Community College, representing Lebanon for seven years.

Shelly founded the Tools of the Trade Medical Bag Donation program, welcoming student doctors to Lebanon's medical school, COMP-NW. With that "sexy voice" of hers, she emceed nonprofit events from the Strawberry Festival Grand Parade and Coronation, to the Soroptimist Walk for the Cause to the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon – even in the cold and wet and rain, she brought sunshine to tired finishers crossing the line.

She was honored as Woman of the Year in 2005, and was nominated in that same year for the Jim Linhart First Citizen Award. She was a recipient of the Ron Looney Leadership Award and the COMP-NW Crystal Award, as well as the executive director and fearless leader of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce since 2009.

While on the LBCC board, she helped make the LBCC Advanced Transportation Center instructional facility in Lebanon a reality. She worked tirelessly to advocate for the Lebanon Veterans' Home, including campaigning to help get the levy passed that supported the home's construction.

She worked with Larry Mullins on the design and construction of Lebanon's Boulder Falls Hotel and Conference Center. When presented with the conference center design, she told Larry: "We're not building this. This won't be big enough." They doubled the size on her recommendation.

Shelly brought out the best in everyone around her. She was big in heart. She lifted Lebanon up. She was a fundraiser. She had an instinct for what would work and what wouldn't. Her instincts were spot on. She was a model chamber director; she made Lebanon a chamber to be admired.

It didn't matter if you were a small, one-person business, you were treated with as much respect as a large successful business.

She loved QVC and Dress Barn. She had two hobbies: buying clothes and shoes.

She liked to gamble – particularly blackjack. She enjoyed painting, and tried her hand at wood burning. She enjoyed pottery, and made quite a few plates she used in her house – the only fault of those was you couldn't put them in the microwave.

She was a proud political conservative – a woman in business.

She was preceded in death by a '69 fastback Mustang and her parents.

Shelly is survived by husband Leroy; beloved son Shawn; brothers Dale, Larry and Jack; nieces and nephews; and her blind, giant clown dog Riley.

Donations in her memory can be made to SafeHaven Humane Society, 32220 Old Hwy. 34, Tangent, OR 97389.

A celebration of life will be held at 3:30 p.m. on April 30 at the River Center, 3000 S Santiam Hwy, Lebanon, OR 97355.


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