Shelley Ryan and David Hansen

I am the luckiest man in the world. I never imagined that day in 1973 at the Food Co-op that sharing the purchase of a head of cabbage with the Co-op Volunteer would lead to sharing the next 40 years with her. We graduated together and spent the happiest two and a half years of our lives in the village of Nauhuizalco, in the midst of the El Salvadoran civil war. I was completely smitten by Shelley’s unlimited selflessness and desire to serve others.

That path carried us through her graduate studies in Public Health, Nutrition, Maternal/Child, Nursing and Nurse Practitioner and my own PhD. During that time we were very blessed with two incredible and brilliant daughters, Sarah and Katurah who have mirrored their mother’s love for math and science.

I have been in awe of Shelley as she rode a motorcycle to 34 Bolivian villages in the Amazon basin to teach public health, midwifing and nutrition to mothers’ clubs, walked across tree-trunk bridges to communities to give vaccinations and training, taught Lamaze classes to women in prison and also to 12 to17 year-old girls at Children’s Hospital, pioneered HIV prevention at Ohio Department of Health, cared for mothers and children at the Hilltop Clinic, and stayed late at work to be able to check on the daughter’s health of the young woman who cleaned her James Cancer Hospital office, even as Shelley herself battled for mobility in her final days with cancer.

I currently work with the Makushi Tribe in the Amazon area of Guyana to create village learning centers because this is how we have always felt and when I see her next, I do not want her to call me a “slacker”.

I am at the Clinic enjoying Monday evenings because I learned to follow Shelley, the light of my life. This one is for you, Shelley.