Sheila Gavigan

April 24, 1959 ~ February 13, 2021 (age 61)


Sheila Marie Gavigan was born in Tacoma, Washington on April 24, 1959, and passed away on February 13, 2021, after a short but courageous battle with an aggressive brain tumor.  Sheila is preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Nan, who emigrated from Donegal, Ireland to Tacoma, WA, where they married and raised their family of seven. Sheila inherited their tremendous love for Ireland, their strong Catholic faith, and their dedication to family.

She lived a life of incredible generosity and service to others and made friends easily with her kind and welcoming personality, as well as her strong and quirky sense of humor. Her many friends would agree but add that she was a great listener as well, as she was always eager to listen, offer advice, and comfort those who sought her out. Sheila was an adventurous, free spirit at heart—never turning down an opportunity to go-kart or do practically anything with her nieces and nephews. Remembering her loud, joyous laugh makes us all smile even as we feel great sadness in her absence.   

            Sheila graduated from Mount Tahoma High School and later Pacific Lutheran University. She began her career as an auditor for a major Tacoma bank before going back to school to earn an MA in Education and pursue her calling of teaching. She wrote and was awarded a Gates Scholarship to work cooperatively to create a School-Within-a-School at Lincoln High School. She also pursued and was granted National Board Certification, requiring her to demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills and practice in her classroom. She loved teaching and working with students and believed deeply in the importance of equal access to education, fighting for students regardless of the personal cost. Sheila was passionate about helping students who faced challenges succeeding academically and understood equity issues in schools long before the rest of us. Her fellow teachers have supported her throughout her career, especially when she moved to teach at Oakland Alternative School three years ago.

            Sheila was an inspiration to us through the courage and determination she modeled in teaching and advocating for her students, in caring for and helping others, including her parents in their later years, as well as recovering from a very serious head injury in 1998 that was supposed to end her career.

            While Sheila had never had children, she was very active in the lives of two generations of nieces and nephews, treating them all as if they were her own. She had almost perfect attendance at sporting events, theater performances, graduations, and school events.  She made sure all of her nieces and nephews were spoiled on their yearly “special days”. The world would be a better place if everyone had an Aunt Sheila.

            While Sheila had many interests and hobbies, reading, spending time with family and friends, and traveling to Ireland were highest on her list.  She spent lots of time watching The Great British Baking Show with whoever was around, finding it a fine show to take a nap to.

Sheila was planning a trip to Ireland with her siblings and all of her nieces and nephews when she learned she had cancer. She will be with them in spirit when that visit happens.


Sheila is survived by four siblings, Charlie (Toni), Pat (Camino), Mary, and Jim (Melissa), seven nephews and nieces (Curt, Kaitlin, Kiara, Michaela, Shelby, Maiti, and Riley), and six grandnephews (Ben, Brady, Ross, Kean, Ander, and Luke), as well as many relatives and friends here in the United States as well as in Ireland, England, Australia, and New Zealand. 

            Due to COVID-19, the funeral mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church will be live-streamed for all who wish to join in. Arrangements are through Gaffney Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to the Glioblastoma Foundation ( for glioblastoma research or Graduate Tacoma ( a support network for youth in Tacoma who are facing adversity.

            Go Raibh Suaimhneas Síoraí Uirthi. Éirinn go Brách.


Please see link below to virtual Funeral Mass on Thursday 02/25/2021 at 11:00 AM

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