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A Cubs fan, the "flower lady," husbands, wives, and more are part of the more than 1,400 Iowans lost COVID-19 as of early October 2020. Des Moines Register
Shawna Gilleland always ended nightly chats with her mother with the same few phrases.
"Good night. Sweet dreams. Don't let the bed bugs bite. Love you and talk to you tomorrow."
Although Shawna lived in a Burlington group home a few hours from her family in Lake Ozark, Missouri, she kept them close through frequent phone calls, ensuring their bonds werent severed by the distance, said her mother, Martha Gilleland. Shawnaloved hearing stories about her nieces and nephews and talked fondly about the familys camping trips.
"She called me at least half a dozen times a day," Martha said.
Shawna, who had been living in the eastern Iowa river town for about a year, died of COVID-19 on April 25, less than a month before her 45th birthday.
Despite a learning disability, Shawna Gilleland earned her driver's license and enjoyed crossword puzzles and romance novels.(Photo: Submitted)
Shawna was born at Illinois Chanute Air Force Base. When she was 6 months old,a mysterious, antibiotic-resistant infection left herwith a burning fever. Unabating, the prolonged fever caused brain damage that resulted in a learning disability.
Doctors told Martha her daughters life had been irrevocably changed. Shed never be able to live independently, they said, or get behind the wheel of a car.
"ButI worked and worked and worked with her very hard for several years, and she was able to do both, Martha said.
Shawna lived in her own apartment off and on for several years while holding down a job as a cashier. When her living situation allowed, shed take in a cat to cuddle with as she watched movies or listened to country music.
At 18, she got her driver's license. She had difficulty understanding the written test, but when asked the questions aloud, passed with flying colors.
She drove much like she lived: carefully andwith determination.
Despite her disability, Shawna enjoyedcrossword puzzles and books, especially romance novels.
"She didn't want a romance for herself, but she loved reading romance," her mom said with a laugh.
Shawna Gilleland loved attending Iowa Hawkeyes football and basketball games.(Photo: Submitted photo)
Shawna was known to wear her love for the Iowa Hawkeyes whenever she could, and jumped at the chance to attend any home football or basketball game.
"She wanted everything Iowa Hawkeye, from blankets to backpacks to key fobs, jackets, clothing," Martha said. "It was all Iowa Hawkeye."
Her love for Iowa sports was eclipsed only by her generosity.Quick with a smile and a hug, shed buy trinkets for family and friends on trips to Walmart, excited to see their reaction when she gave them as gifts.
"She was one of those who would give her shirt off her back to anyone who needed it," Martha said. "She ended up giving away a Hawkeye jacket to a friend who really wanted it."
Shawna made at least one good friend at each of the group homes she livedin, her mother said, and could recall their names and a few tidbits about them years after she moved out.
"By the time she was in her 40s, she could remember every address number, every phone number we had from the time she was little, Martha said. And we had lived in over a dozen places.
When her mother finally allowed her to have a smartphone last year, Shawna reached out to her old friends on social media. She loved Facebook, her mom said, and even tracked down babysitters whod watched her as a child.
Shawna Gilleland, top left, poses for a family photo with her sisters, Kelly and Chera Gilleland, and their parents, Randal and Martha Gilleland.(Photo: Submitted)
As the pandemic raged across America, Shawna added a frame to her profile picture that read Stay Home Save Lives and posted reminders to wear masks.
Now Martha leans on some of the small gifts Shawna gave her over the years for comfort. The little teddy bear holding a heart emblazoned with I Love You. The decorative sign hanging in her parents camper that declaresFamily lives here.
Each is a reminder of Shawnas quick smiles, warm hugs and the special way she ended every phone call.
"Good night. Sweet dreams. Don't let the bed bugs bite. Love you and talk to you tomorrow."
Iowa Mourns: The Iowans we've lost to COVID-19
Iowa Mourns is a series of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at email@example.com.
The following aredeaths from COVID-19 added in the past week to our list of more than 200 Iowans who have died from the disease,found atDesMoinesRegister.com/IowaMourns.
Daniel Lee Boon, 69, Rock Rapids. A car aficionado who carefully restored a1957 Chevy police cruiser to pristine condition.
James Quinten Cahill, 91, West Branch. Wrotethe Cahill Cooperative Newsletter, which covered history and current events for those connected by the Cahill surname.
Marvin MaynardClark, 84, Carson. A collector ofmarbles, John Deere toys and beer steins.
Thelma Doescher, 91, Mason City. A "from-scratch" baker who handwrote dozens of Christmas cards annually.
Anna Dudgeon, 93, Durant. Former president of theLiedertafel Ladies.
Tom Heath, 61, Iowa City. A one-time accountant who also drove a cab.
Gary Hudgens, 74, Altoona. Worked as a pressman for the Des Moines Register for more than 20 years, and retired, along with the presses, when the company automated.
Christine Jensen, 67, Des Moines. Loved to sing songs with her twin sister, Andrea.
Jack Klingborg, 83, Cherokee. An activity therapist and teacher atCherokee Mental Health Institute.
Kenneth Lien, 101, Nora Springs. Awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after being wounded in 1944 in Italy.
Sanford Naiditch, 97, Ankeny. Knew the Ohio State Universityfight song by heart.
Stephen Palmer, 69, Des Moines. Helped people with intellectual disabilities through his 20-year involvement with Special Olympics.
Robert Probasco, 69, Des Moines. Served in the U.S.Army in Germany from 1971 to 1974.
Henry "Hank" Steinwandt, 84, Mason City. Loved John Waynemovies.
Jerry Dean Stoffregen, 79, Waverly. Worked in the banking industry for more than 25 years.
Nathan Stupka, 48, Elkhart. An All-State pitcher for Ballard's Bomber Baseball team.
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