Shawna Lee Thompson

Thompson—Shawna Lee Thompson, 52, on May 20, 2019, peacefully, from pancreatic cancer, in Tucson, Ariz. Shawna was born on June 4, 1966, to Roselyn (Harrison) Thompson and John Lowe Thompson in Cortez, Colo. Shawna’s parents were Navajo. Shawna and her mother were from the Coyote Pass clan, and her father was from the Red House clan. Shawna’s earliest years were spent in Dove Creek, Colo., where her father trained to be a missionary in the Pentecostal Church of God. When Shawna was three years old, the family moved to Kayenta, Ariz., where her father served as pastor of a church on Navajo Nation land. His public charisma and religiosity were overshadowed by violence at home, and Shawna’s mother left him.

Shawna loved women more than men and did not conform to gender norms. After graduating from Monument Valley High School in 1984, she enrolled in American Indian Bible College in Phoenix, Ariz. Shawna was expelled for having a relationship with a woman. She took classes at Arizona State University (ASU) and worked the night shift at a warehouse.

Shawna became involved with drinking, drugs, and an abusive relationship. She was occasionally homeless and spent years on mental health disability. She visited various churches, including attending a meeting for worship at Phoenix (Ariz.) Meeting. Although she never returned, she appreciated sitting in silence with people who did not judge her. Shawna’s life improved in 1997 when she began taking psychotropic medication. She took a job in the library of Mesa Community College, and, in 2002, completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology from ASU.

Following graduation, Shawna entered into a relationship with her partner, Jan. They were together for five years, raising a daughter, Ashley. In 2008, Shawna was diagnosed with breast cancer. With Jan’s encouragement, she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, which ultimately cured her of cancer. In 2010, her relationship with Jan ended.

Shawna met Bob Winchester, a member of Pima Meeting in Tucson. Bob invited her to attend Quaker storytelling. Shawna felt a sense of connection and began to attend meetings for worship.

Shawna earned a master’s degree in information technology and library science from the University of Arizona in 2012. At the university, she was a library information associate and served on the Diversity, Social Justice, and Equity Council.

Shawna became a member of Pima Meeting in 2013. She served on the Nominating Committee, Ministry and Oversight Committee, as recording clerk, and as clerk of the meeting. Her spirit-centered leadership, commitment to the truth, and sense of humor helped the community move forward with integrity during a time of sometimes difficult change.

Shawna was generous with her time and money. She was known as a caring and nonjudgmental listener. She wrote poetry characterized by subtle wit and good humor.

In 2018, Shawna went to the desert south of Tucson to discern God’s will for her life, and quickly got the answer: she was to discontinue her Quaker service and library career to spend time with her mother, who came to Tucson to live with her.

Shawna was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2019. She declined to receive aggressive treatment. Instead, she spent the final months of her life living out peace, joy, and acceptance. In April 2019, with the help of Pima Meeting, Shawna, her mother, and four friends traveled to Monument Valley on Navajo Nation land. While there, she was able to draw more deeply from within herself, resulting in renewed vitality.

Shawna is survived by her mother, Roselyn Thompson; a sister, Lorna Chávez; and two brothers, Jonathan Thompson and Jonah Thompson.

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