Deborah Jackson Shelton

February 22, 1942July 11, 2014

Deborah Jackson Shelton, 72, passed away Friday, July 11, 2014 after a courageous 3 year battle with pancreatic cancer. Debbie, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 22, 1942, to Richard Jackson and Helen Pfeiffer. She attended Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia where she graduated in 1964 with a B.A. with honors in History of Art. Following graduation she worked in New York City until her marriage to Charles Bascom Shelton III on July 3, 1965. Together with Charlie and their two daughters, they lived all over the world including San Diego, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Nashville, London and Tanzania.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1977 and Debbie began to contribute to the Atlanta community. She worked as a volunteer at The Alliance Theatre, where she chaired the first and fifth Dream Auction; and the High Museum of Art, where she chaired the 1989 Antiques Show. She was also President of the Hanover West Civic Association and Vice-Chair of the NPU-C. In 1978 she joined the staff of the Alliance Theatre Company/Atlanta Children’s Theatre becoming Director of Youth Programs for eight years. She left the staff of the Theatre in 1986 and joined the Board of Directors in 1988. She served as Chair of Planned Giving for the Alliance Theatre, then Chairman of the Board, and was finally honored with an appointment as Life Director.

In 1989, Debbie became an active volunteer for the Olympic movement during the process of Atlanta’s bid for the Olympic Games. She was a key member of the Atlanta Organizing Committee (AOC) and worked to win the 1996 Olympic Games bid. She then joined the staff of the Atlanta Organizing Committee for Olympic Games (ACOG). She served as Project Manager for the 1992 Flag Celebration, for the visit of the Queen of Norway in 1993, and for the Conference of the Nobel Laureates of Literature in 1995. In mid-1995 she was the Program Director for Venue Staffing, charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Venue Staffing Managers and their volunteers at each of the competition and non-competition venues. Following the Olympics, she served as the Vice-Chair of Hospitality for the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

Debbie was involved in many non-profit and charitable organizations in Atlanta, serving on the board of directors of the Alliance Theatre, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Visiting Nurse/Hospice Atlanta, Alliance Franciase d’ Atlanta, the YMCA of Greater Atlanta, ARCS Foundation (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), The Cathedral of St. Philip and the Cathedral Music Program.

She led a life committed to friends and family. She led efforts to raise money for Alex Zahradnicek who is an aspiring Olympic skater. In 2010, she completed the program of Theological Education by Extension Education for Ministry through The Cathedral of St Philip and that church community became her second home. Debbie and Charlie enjoyed a love of travel and especially France spending many summers in St. Remy de Provence where they hosted friends and family at ‘Mas de Viret’, traveling to Antigua and the Mill Reef Club with friends, and enjoying their home in Highlands, NC and the community at Cullasaja.

Deborah is survived by her husband of 49 years, Charles Bascom Shelton III; her daughter Lara Shelton Ratcliff and her husband Bruce Alan Ratcliff, Jr. and their two children Elizabeth Pfeiffer Ratcliff and Charles Alan Ratcliff; her youngest daughter Ashley Shelton Gayanilo and her husband Ludwig Erwin Pineda Gayanilo and their daughter Maria Angelina Pineda Shelton Gayanilo and stepdaughter Noah Gabrielle Thayer-Gayanilo; and her sister, Faith Jackson Parker and her husband, John R. Parker and her children Caroline Pfeiffer Wadhams and Nicholas Hand Wadhams.

A memorial service will be held Friday, July 18 at 11 o’clock at The Cathedral of St. Philip. The family will greet guests in Child Hall following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta, GA 30305; The Alliance Theater, 1280 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, GA 30309; or to ARCS Foundation, Inc., Atlanta Chapter, P.O. Box 52124, Atlanta, GA 30355. Online condolences may be made at

The family praises God for Debbie’s intelligence, wit, hospitality, service and inspiration. She was a wonderful mother, wife and friend, and we thank friends and family for their love and support.


  • Memorial Service Friday, July 18, 2014

Deborah Jackson Shelton

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Anne-Marie & Philippe Janin-Ruggeri

November 29, 2014

We're, my wife and me, french poeple. (provencal)
I searched on the net to hear about what I was so afraid to learn.
I just find now the terrible information.
We're my wife and me very injured by this loss unbearable.
My english is too poor to explain what we feel.
Debby was so kind, so delicate with us.
Also always so generous and friendly with us and so much people.
So clever too. We had so much to learn through Debbie's contact.
She's a landmark for us. We'll keep her in our heart
Merci pour tout Debbie ...
We think of you, Charlie, whole-hearthedly.

Claude Wegscheider

July 21, 2014

I had the privilege of having Debbie as a student in several Conversation classes at Alliance Française. Besides her command of the French language, her vast knowledge and curiosity, her sense of humor and a contagious laughter made her a great asset. As Executive Director of AF, I was also lucky to benefit from her experience when she was a Board Member. She was similarly helpful with the programs we set up for ACOG.
I had lost touch with Debbie over the past few years but I do have lasting and fond memories.
Avec mes sincères condoléances.

Kim Resnik

July 19, 2014

Debbie and I worked at the Alliance together in the 80s - I absolutely adored her. Her sense of humor was unparalleled and made our long days fun. Charlie, Lara and Ashley - you are in my heart. Debbie was one of a kind - the best kind. She lives on in each of us who knew her.

Liz Aull

July 18, 2014

I met Debbie when she and I served on the Cathedral Chapter together, and I am honored to have known her. All of you are in my prayers.

Coleman & Jody Parker

July 18, 2014

So sorry to learn of Debbie's passing. We shared some fun times in Vermont, and Faith has kept us in the loop over the course of her illness. Please know that we are thinking of you all. With deepest sympathy,

Beryl Bergquist {Farris]

July 17, 2014

To the Shelton family, we share your loss. Debbie was the whirlwind in support of the Alliance Theatre. She was a joy to behold. She was amazement in action. Her enthusiasm, her drive, her ready smile, she shared with us all. It was not just a joy to know her, but a thrill to have known her.

July 16, 2014

It was inspiring working with Debbie at the TOUR Championship. She will be missed so very much. Lenora Bryant (Supply Distribution, TOUR Championship)


July 16, 2014

My most heartfelt condolences to the Shelton family. I have the most pleasant memories of long board meetings at the Alliance Francaise, where Debbie's input was always to the point. A great lady, and a great loss.

"Maintenant, ô Maître souverain, Tu peux laisser ton serviteur s'en aller en paix, selon ta parole. Car ses yeux ont vu le salut que tu préparais à la face des peuples : Lumière qui se révèle aux nations et donne gloire à ton peuple." Cantique de Symeon

Bill Duncan

July 16, 2014

Meeting Debbie in 1976 was one of the best things that happened to me at the Atlanta Children's Theatre! I was fortunate enough to call her friend for many long glorious years. I will miss that smile and will always remember her infectious laugh!
My thoughts are with the family in this time but, like to think that God and Debbie are laughing their "heads" off right now.
Bless you all, she loved you!

Sherry Williams

July 16, 2014

Sorry to know the passing of Debbie Shelton. We worked together at ACOG and appreciated her work ethic, commitment to the Olympic movement and passion for people. I ran into Debbie at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Games and the heard that she made it to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
My condolences to her family and friends.