Iowa Mourns: From blankets to backpacks to key fobs, Shawna Gilleland wore her love for the Hawkeyes –

An undated school photo of Shawna Gilleland.

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. She loved 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.

Shawna Gilleland, top left, poses for a family photo with her sisters, Kelly and Chera Gilleland, and their parents, Randal and Martha Gilleland.

Born at Illinois Chanute Air Force Base, a mysterious, antibiotic-resistant infection left Shawna with a burning fever at six months old. 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, she passed with flying colors.

She drove much like she lived: carefully andwith determination.

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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 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 games.

"She wanted everything Iowa Hawkeye, from blankets to backpacks to key fobs, jackets, clothing," Martha said. "It was all Iowa Hawkeye."

Shawna Gilleland poses for a picture while attending and Iowa Hawkeyes football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

But her love for Iowa sports was eclipsed only by her generosity.Quick with a smile and a hug, shed buy little trinkets for family and friends on trips to Walmart, excited to see their reaction when gifted them.

"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."

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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.

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As the pandemic raged across American, 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 declares, Family 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: 30 stories from around the state

When Barbara Jean Sherman first met Jerome George Sherman, a military man with orders to post in Fairbanks, Alaska, she knew there was a spark. But she couldnt have known how their love would bloom across 3,000 miles of land and sea especially back in the 1950s.

Nobody made peanut butter frosting like Barbara McGrane-Brennan. At least, that's what her daughter, Tonya Brennan, says.

Bryce Wilson always had rhythm in his heart.

Jackie Lake left her Oklahoma home on a quintessential autumn day in October 1987, heading northeast to Iowa to meet this new friend her brother kept raving about.

The turtle figurine on Abbie Eichman's work desk always faced north.

Deb Miller first started talking to Jim Miller Jr. from the backseat of his taxi cab.

Mel Stahmers favorite bar trick almost never failed.

In Iowa Citys Hickory Trail neighborhood, it was common knowledge that Ed McCliment took a morning stroll to a nearby convenience store and returned with a cup of coffee in one hand and a fresh copy of the New York Times in the other. On the way back, his eyes would be transfixed on the newsprint as he walked no need to watch his feet along the well-trod route that always carried him home.

Patrick C. Parks and aviation were a match made in the heavens.

Walt Bussey kept his Aunt Katie Jacobs' leather work boots when she moved into a nursing home eight years ago, hoping she would one day return to the family farm to wear them again.

Mary Kitty Rolfes loved to gab, usually about her family.

Norma Jean Perry loved being a grandmother so much that she didnt stop with her own eight grandchildren.

Stan Patrick bled Cub blue.

For someone who loved practical jokes as much as Edith Elida Anderson, April 1 took strategy.

If there was ever a cause for celebration from St. Patricks Day to birthdays to retirements Jim Orvis had a greeting card for it.

David Worthington never backed down from a fight.

Youve heard stories about people walking to school through wind and rain, frigid cold and blinding snow.

Wiuca Iddi Wiuca spent most of his life in limbo, searching for a place to call home.

Lola Nelson's green thumb earned her a reputation in the small town of Ollie.

After growing up an only child, Marilyn Elizabeth Prouty knew she wanted a big family a dozen children, to be specific.

When Amy Gardner was younger, she was, admittedly, a troublemaker. Her transgressions were generally kids stuff, like taking her parents' car for a joyride or talking back to a teacher.

Youll have to excuse Janet Baxas laughs when she talks about meeting her husband, Kenneth "Ken" Baxa.

Therese J. Harney spent hours and hours in bowling alleys trying out grips, practicing approaches and watching her ball ramble down the lane and smash into the pins hoping, of course, she would knock them all down.

With a swing set, a sandbox, a tetherball court and a little red playhouse built to look like a train engine, Lucille Dixon Herndon ensured her familys yard was a childhood dream made real.

Regina Thiry was an expert quilter.

Jose Gabriel Martinez handed his oldest son a map.

Carroll White deserved a better 100th birthday celebration.

Even dogs could tell Daryle Jass was a good guy.

Don Lole cultivated such strong, deep roots in the small, rural town of Villachuato, Mexico, that he became a living landmark.

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Iowa Mourns: From blankets to backpacks to key fobs, Shawna Gilleland wore her love for the Hawkeyes -

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