Index of Posts: Slices of Shona's Life
Memories of Shona

From Ruth O'Brien

Shona's life (DU, NY)

Like everyone who knew Shona, I am shocked by her sudden and premature death, and I am greatly saddened for Alina, Shane, and Randy.  There is no good time to lose a parent, but having lost one myself as a child, I know this opens a hole in your heart that can never be filled, no matter how many great friends, family members, and surrogates you find. Compound that truism exponentially with Shona, the mother, and the hole becomes even bigger, a black hole perhaps, for her two children.  I know that Randy, as a loving father and Shona’s life partner, will step up and provide for all his children’s emotional needs, needs that get so complex in adolescence, when they are so close to being independent.

Shona and I shared a couple of worlds, along with their attendant anxieties, since we moved from Denver to New York at the same time, even though we didn’t work at the same university. Together we learned to cope with dual academic career difficulties in Denver and New York; mixing research and publishing while raising babies and young children; and not compromising, even if it means taking the uphill path the whole way.  Shona put such a happy face on everything that it never mattered what lay in her path.

I have a snapshot of each one of these moments to share.

Alina shares a birth year with my oldest son, and I vividly remember sitting on the New Jersey shore, both of us trying to figure out why it had so many smokers who swam.  In California there were smokers and there were swimmers, and at least in the 1970s, the nicotine smokers never came down on the sand.  Shona shared some interesting theories, all while we sat on the sand, enjoying the wealth of our pregnancies with Shane playing happily in the sand.

I remember Shona’s hospitality on a July 4th with all our children, when we bailed because the noise was too much for our sons, but not for Shane and Alina, who proved more noise-resistant than my own boys.  Shona’s hospitality was legendary, whether it was homemade pasta for an evening, or fresh towels when you spent a weekend in Red Hook.

I remember Max and Theo sledding one New Year’s Eve in Red Hook.  My sons still retain this memory, remembering Alina and Shane as the “cool” kids who got to sled at midnight, admiring how they never complained about the cold.  (For years I had to tell them that you can only sled at midnight if your home is on a hill, not where they sled, above Tommy’s Pond where we live.)

I remember learning at dinner parties at Shona’s house, meeting well-known Italian scholars trained in Australia who knew the people I knew – my crew of radical feminist Australians (Elizabeth Grosz, G. Lloyd) who worked on human rights.  Shona always put together fascinating people from different, though sometimes colliding, worlds.

And of course I remember our phone calls when I couldn’t get up to Red Hook these past few years, and I couldn’t make it to Rome or Florence in time (last summer or this).  While our timing was off, I did get a chance to catch up and speak extensively with Shona about the last trip she made with her family. I have no doubt she relished this last research trip as she did the many she made for the Watson, and all the other prestigious fellowships her research merited.

I will miss Shona but I know she will remain in my heart forever.

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