Editor's Note: We've lost a beloved member of the NBC10 family. Sheela Allen-Stephens passed away at Bryn Mawr hospital last week. Our Chief Meteorologist, Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz was a dear friend for years. He asked to write about the life Sheela shared with us, and so many of you -- her legacy of laughs. Services are public Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. at Sharon Baptist Church, 3955 Conshohocken Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa.
AN ORIGINAL: SHEELA ALLEN-STEPHENS
One of a Kind
She survived breast cancer, three heart attacks, brain surgery, and diabetes.
She told people that she had more than 25 surgeries in her life.
She was as happily married as any person I ever saw.
She would command any room she was in. People just gravitated toward her. And she could entertain them for hours.
She was the only person I ever heard of who won, time after time, playing video poker at the casinos. No one would believe it -- but I saw it myself.
She had one of the hardest jobs in TV and did it better than anyone: to make people smile and laugh ("Tragedy is easy; comedy is hard")
She was afraid of no one. Who else would yell at George Clooney loud enough to get him out of his trailer for an interview? She yelled: "They’ll fire me if I don’t get this interview!"
And it worked.
She wore more jewelry at any one time than most women accumulate in their lifetime.
She asked for everyone’s birth date. And remembered them all.
She made amazing predictions based on her belief in astrology (and believing she was psychic). Scientists don’t believe in that stuff, of course. But I was speechless after some of her predictions came true.
She was the most interesting person I ever knew. And the funniest, too.
And now she’s gone.
What a Life Story!
I wish I could remember all of the amazing stories Sheela told about her life, and all the amazing people she met over the years. Many of us were skeptical of some of her stories, and then shocked when we found it was true. Here’s an example…
Sheela was a very beautiful woman. When she was single, she was sought after by sports stars, celebrities, and wealthy men. One of them, she told me, was a member of the great Motown group, "The Spinners”. We wondered it was more fantasy than fact.
Years later, Sheela got tickets for us to see a "Spinners" concert in Atlantic City. First row, of course (I figured it was due to her big casino connections). Before the concert, she told me that "Harry" (the name has been changed to protect him) not only dated her, but had proposed to her IN THE MIDDLE OF A LIVE CONCERT. AND SHE YELLED "NO!"
Now, would you believe that?
But after the concert, she took us backstage. And right into the "Spinners" dressing room. One of them saw her, yelled: "Sheela!" and gave her a big hug. "Harry" was in another dressing room, and hugged her too, but he wasn’t enthusiastic about it. Decades later, he was still obviously hurt.
Story After Story After Story
No one could tell a story like Sheela. We sometimes went to her favorite restaurant, a soul food place called "DeBreaux’s" at the Overbrook train station. It was a tiny place, with only a few tables. Sheela commanded the table in the middle, and would tell story after story. We laughed hysterically. So did the complete strangers who came in the door, who were immediately asked VERY personal questions. And they would answer them! Even if it was related to sex. Then that person would sit down with us, continuing the conversation while waiting for their food.
I once had a Saturday lunch there that lasted more than FOUR HOURS! And wasn’t bored for a second.
And Then There Was Lonnie
Lonnie Stephens was a Philly native (Sheela was from New York City). He was Sheela’s designated photographer for all her stories and live shots. They got married in the 80s, and were together 24 hours a day for about 20 years! And they loved each other so much that they probably wished there were even more hours in the day, so they could be together longer.
While Sheela had multiple health problems, Lonnie was always in perfect health. And amazingly strong. And always smiling. Always. But, in 2004, he was suddenly diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Lonnie, the love of Sheela's life, died only months later. Of course, Sheela was devastated. And even more than ten years later, she still told everyone: "I’m married -- just to a dead man!"
After having brain surgery in 2001, Sheela told a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I’m a dog person, but everybody keeps saying I’m a cat. I’m on my ninth life here." She managed to keep others entertained for another 15 years.
Sheela passed away late last week.
I miss her already.
Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz