August 20, 1938 - September 14, 2020
And may we strive to touch and to know the
great common human heart of us all,
and, Oh Lord God, let us forget not
to be kind.
-Collect for Clubwomen
Shelby Paisley Hamlett was born and raised in Wytheville, Virginia. After moving to Roanoke, Virginia, Shelby began her GFWC work at the age of 18 with the Brambleton Junior Woman’s Club in Blue Ridge District. Shelby served the Blue Ridge District as Third Vice President/Director of Junior Clubs. Her Junior membership and subsequent membership in the GFWC Woman’s Club of Roanoke provided the foundation for Shelby’s long history of leadership and Federation service.
In addition to her club work, Shelby was instrumental in the development and administration of Easter Seals Virginia. She served for many years on its Board of Directors and on the National Easter Seals Society Board. She was active in the Roanoke Valley Chapters of the March of Dimes and Mental Health Association. Shelby was listed in Outstanding Young Women of America.
Shelby attended Carson-Newman College, where she was news editor of the college paper and Hollins University where she studied Publishing. This career path was an asset when Shelby became editor of The Virginia Clubwoman in 1972. In 1974, Shelby was installed as GFWC Virginia Secretary. She continued to serve the State Federation as Second Vice President, First Vice President, and President, 1980-1982, during GFWC Virginia’s 75th Anniversary. Shelby’s administration theme was “Service, the Debt of Education”, our GFWC Virginia motto. Her State Project was Camp Easter Seals East.
Shelby advanced quickly to offices in our international organization, GFWC She served as GFWC International President 2000-2002. It was during her term that the nation was rocked by the 9/11 tragedy prompting GFWC to begin a fundraising campaign to purchase a fully equipped ambulance for New York City. Shelby loved GFWC with all her heart and held tremendous faith in the Federation and its members. Under her leadership, GFWC established the Leadership Education and Development Seminar (LEADS). Even in the face of declining membership, Shelby believed that educated and inspired leaders would keep the Federation strong. As GFWC International President she attended the Women’s World Vision Conference held in China. She also participated in an Operation Smile Medical mission.
Just as Roanoke has an iconic star that sparkles over the city from a high mountaintop, GFWC had a shining star in Shelby. She never met a stranger. Everyone was a friend, some special. Despite frequent separations from her federation sisters, Shelby had the gift of reconnecting with friends as if they had never been apart. Those privileged to call Shelby “Friend” agree she personified Mary Stewart’s “Collect for Clubwomen”. She touched and knew “the great, common human heart of us all.” Shelby’s grace, kindness, and generous spirit will be remembered always.