Last month, Atlanta lost a passionate advocate and member of the LGBTQ community. Sheila Merritt died on September 17 at the age of 58 after surgery for a sudden illness.
Originally from Michigan, Sheila was known and loved in Atlanta for her work in the LGBTQ community. In addition to her professional work as a marketing manager for various well-known institutions such as the Georgia International Convention Center and the Gateway Center Arena, she worked for a decade as a project manager for Q&A events representing Atlanta Pride.
Sheila served her community as president of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Jefferson Park Neighbors Association. Her activism earned her the title of “Atlanta Pride Grand Marshal” in 2014, and she often used her platforms to speak fiercely about and advocate for queer rights and racial justice. Sheila was an advocate not just for the LGBTQ community, but “for every underserved community,” Suzanne Baugh, her friend and former business partner, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Anyone who needed help, anyone, she was there.”
“Tomorrow is June 1st, which marks the start of Pride Month,” Sheila wrote on Facebook in 2020. “Do you know why?! Because we all refer to the Stonewall Uprising as the beginning of the modern liberation of the LGBTQIAA++ movement. “Uprising” is a vanilla-infused synonym for RIOT… black people have ENOUGH. Get on board – or use your privilege and sit the fuck down and shut up. The rest of us actually have work to do.”
Sheila is survived by her wife Andria “AT” Towne, her son Max Greene, her grandson Rowan and fur babies Cuervo and Sake, as well as her sister Sue Sharp and her partner Ron Goshen; sister-in-law Cindy Towne; niece Katie Towne and her partner Chris Denham; and nephew and niece-in-law Steve and Rebecca Sharp and their three children.
Sheila’s life and light touched everyone around her and her death left a void that will be impossible to fill.
“For those of you who didn’t know, Sheila and AT were one of my very first clients when I started my cleaning company in the early years of my transition,” adds Gabriella Claiborne, co-founder of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, a transgender training and consulting company -Focus wrote on Facebook after learning of Sheila’s death. “They were an important reason why, as a fragile and young person at the time, I was able to not only experience what it was like to be accepted as my authentic self, but also to be able to earn a living as the woman I was. ” Become. By being at their home every month for the next four years, they became family to me. And when Sheila extended an invitation to join her and her family for Thanksgiving this year (because I wasn’t welcome alone), our relationship took on new meaning… I can’t even begin to express the love and gratitude I feel for you . The nice thing is, I’m just one of many stories like mine.”
“We bought our first home in our beloved Jefferson Park 14 years ago, and within a year I began to understand what community is all about,” Brian D. Frey, a real estate agent and close friend of Sheila, wrote on Facebook. “I got directly involved in volunteerism, leadership and civic engagement… They inspired me, mentored me, encouraged me and showed me what giving back is all about. Your guidance and advice, your support and encouragement, and your never-ending smile set me on a course of civic engagement that lives within me to this day…Your remarkable character, your never-ending advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community and for humanity itself were a testament to everything you stood for and who you were.”
You can plant memorial trees in honor of Sheila’s life and legacy by visiting donehoo-lewisfuneralhome.com/obituary/sheila-merritt.