Sharolyn Kay Gregory

December 2, 1952April 9, 2018

December 2, 1952 - April 9, 2018 - Shari (Sharolyn) Gregory died April 9, 2018 as quietly, gently, and peacefully as she lived life. She was 65. Complications related to early onset Alzheimer's were the cause of death. The universe knows few souls gentler than hers.

Shari had that certain flash every time she smiled. She opened hearts and minds with that smile. Her smile, soft voice, and pervasive gentleness touched people from all walks of life in all sorts of places. Being justice-minded from an early age, she got in trouble while in residence at the Ford Foundation compound in New Delhi, India for inviting the entire corps of cooks, wait staff, house cleaners, and gardeners to her birthday party. As a close friend described her, "Shari had it all - real beauty, quick wit, open heart, and infectious passion for play." Shari was happiest when traveling anywhere and any way, but especially somewhere new and somewhere wild.

Shari lived, schooled, toured, or trekked on every continent except Antarctica and visited 49 of 50 states. She was adept at immersing herself in the local culture wherever she found herself. When on a sabbatical year with her family in northern Sweden, Shari enrolled in a school for immigrants to learn Swedish and meet new friends from various cultures who were immigrating to Sweden. Many of those new friends quickly found themselves invited home for dinner!

At one time or another, Shari lived long enough to get mail in California where she worked as a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management; Idaho where she broke her leg skiing in the Tetons; Michigan, where she was born, departed, begrudgingly came back 30 years later, raised a family and died; Montana, where she went to graduate school, got married, shot her first elk, and gave birth to her first child; New York, where she adopted the daughter she had always wanted; Pennsylvania, where she walked along the Delaware River in high school with her first sweetheart, and later started college; Utah, where among other things she finished college, lived in Whitehorse Village (don't try to find it on a map) and played flute in the Bugger Band; and Wyoming, where she worked for the U.S. Forest Service and conducted research on the high elevation plant communities in the Bridger-Tetons. Shari also lived abroad at various times in England, India, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, and Sweden.

Shari initiated college at Bryn Mawr, but transferred after her first year to Utah State University to earn a BS in botany. She went on to earn a MS in plant ecology from Montana State University, where she met her husband in a plant taxonomy class he took only because his advisor forced him to do so. Shari was an ecologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of northwest Montana, U.S. Forest Service, Cornell University, and Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Yet, she claimed her greatest job satisfaction came from working with children in the Okemos school system during her later years.

Proud of being a forester's daughter, Shari loved all organisms that contain chlorophyll. Besides studying plants in college and throughout her career, she possessed an unusually green thumb in gardens of all types and in any house within which she resided. Shari was less content indoors than outdoors, where she loved to bike, camp, canoe, climb, fish, hike, hunt, and ski, or just take a walk. She was an active Unitarian Universalist throughout much of her adult life and participated as long as she could in religious education and choir. Her positive attitude, fortitude, and heroic circle of friends helped Shari beat stage IV non-smoker lung cancer in 2017.

Her husband of 31 years, Shawn Riley, and treasured daughter, Kristen Riley, survive Shari. Her first child, Aaron, and her parents, Ann and Bob of Ann Arbor, predeceased her. Siblings Bonnie (David) Inouye and Robin (Terry) Gregory as well as abundant nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends throughout the world will miss her dearly.

To honor Shari, contributions may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing for the "Shari Gregory stained glass", 5509 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Lansing, MI 48911, or to Michigan State University for the "Shawn Riley and Shari Gregory Endowment for Study Abroad", 535 Chestnut Road Room 300, East Lansing, Michigan 48824.

A celebration of Shari's life will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing, 5509 S. Pennsylvania Ave., on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at 1:00pm. A reception at the Church following the service will feature cookies and ice cream (Shari's favorite food groups). You can remember Shari, who loved to bake, by bringing your favorite home-baked cookies to share.


  • Celebration of Life Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sharolyn Kay Gregory

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lori Keilen

April 11, 2018

I’m so so sorry for your loss. I will keep you in my thoughts & prayers during this difficult time & the days ahead. Just the short time Shari was with us, I could see the love & dedication you had for was beautiful!
I really enjoyed hearing your fun travels/adventures you & Shari shared.
I will miss seeing the both of you at Stoneleigh Residence.
Stop by & see us!
Hugs & prayers,
Lori Keilen (Volunteer)

Sue Anderson

April 11, 2018

Remembering the beautiful lady we grew to love whom we called Shari. Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you all and to care for Shari. There's a big hole here and you are greatly missed. Your devotion to her, Shawn, was a wonderful example and blessing to all.
My prayers and thoughts are with you!
Sue, RN