I just found out from her partner that Debra Jane Shelly has passed away and although she didn’t know me, I knew her. Debra affected me, she changed me, she made me want to be a better person and I am angry and upset that she was taken too soon. I’m also confused about what to do, as I was not her friend, or connected to her or her life in any way.
Debra worked and shared her life with Kevin Boyd, of the Comic Lounge and Gallery in Toronto. Kevin is a great man, he got me into Fan Expo as a guest and no matter what my reputation was in the comic industry or what people said about me he has always been considerate and respectful to me and my work. When I met Debra for the first time all I could think was “Yeah, Kevin definitely deserves a woman like this, he is a great guy and she seems like a beautiful person.”
Debra had the kind of smile that could light up a room and she always had so much cheer and enthusiasm for what she was doing that it was infectious. I’m not an easy person to get along with and I don’t make friends easily but being in the same place as her, you wanted to be friends with her. She was such a light in the world that it made me feel ashamed of my own darkness, she was the kind of person that you were on your best behavior around because she deserved it. She made the world a better place and Toronto, the comic scene and the entire world has lost someone truly special.
The Comic Book Lounge & Gallery was the only place I ever felt accepted me and I think in some way, if not directly, this was due to the light she shined. People like Debra are the people who make this world livable, most of us are just ghosts that haunt the place. What saddens me is that there was never a social, normal way to express how great people are. In a city I don’t particularly care for, in an industry that never seemed to care for me, she was one of the good ones and I will never forget that. I never really knew her, but having met her even for such a brief time I am grateful. I can’t imagine what this is like for her family and friends and as the guy looking in through the window, it is not my place to wail and draw attention away from their sorrow. All I can do is post my feelings here and ask everyone in the Toronto area to check out the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery; she worked hard to make that place special and everyone should go and support something she believed in.
We spent so much of our time trying to be special but it is not artists, writers, actors or musicians who are special. It is people like Debra who create a friendly, caring and safe environment for people that are truly special. Her light was so bright it even shined through the darkness I carry on my back and for that she will not be forgotten, not by me. She has returned to the light, on the right side of the sun and she’ll shine down for as long as the planet Earth is here to appreciate it.
My deepest condolences to Kevin Boyd, Debra’s family and friends and the extended family of the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery.
I cannot say and I will not say
That she is dead, she is just away.
With a cheery smile and a wave of hand
She has wandered into an unknown land;
And left us dreaming how very fair
Its needs must be, since she lingers there.
And you-oh you, who the wildest yearn
From the old-time step and the glad return-
Think of her faring on, as dear
In the love of there, as the love of here
Think of her still the same way, I say;
She is not dead, she is just away.
James Whitcomb Riley, American poet (1849 – 1916)