Tiffany Shackelford, 46, was known as a unique, fun ‘force’ to friends, family


After her loss of life, her husband and son put a few of her favourite objects within the room the place she did yoga. Perfume bottles stand subsequent to shiny scarves, her jewellery field and the urn together with her ashes — all sitting on an vintage desk that belonged to her mother and father.

Her son, Sam, calls it “the memory room.”

“I’m devastated,” stated Aaron Castelo, 51, Shackelford’s husband. “It happened so quickly and unexpectedly.”

An solely little one, Shackelford was born in Jacksonville, Fla. Her mom was an artist and elementary college trainer and her father was within the Navy. They moved round when she was a little one earlier than settling in Fairfax County within the Nineteen Eighties.

Shackelford graduated from West Potomac High School in 1992 and earned a diploma in poetry 4 years later from East Carolina University.

Her profession combined information publications with public coverage, state politics and digital know-how, in accordance to her colleagues.

She began working as assistant managing editor of Stateline, a information web site that covers tendencies in state politics, and she or he went on to develop into the chief technique officer and communications director for the National Governors Association.

Shackelford was known for being “part tech geek, part journalist and part policy wonk,” stated her longtime good friend Barb Rosewicz, the director of Fiscal 50, a undertaking of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“She didn’t just specialize in just one,” Rosewicz stated. “She merged them and bridged those worlds.”

Shackelford was concerned in a number of skilled organizations, together with the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Online News Association. She helped discovered and later served as govt director of Capitolbeat, which supplied coaching and assist to statehouse editors and reporters.

Most lately, Shackelford labored as executive director of the Society for News Design — a group for media professionals who work in graphic and Web design. Since final yr, she additionally had been engaged on a undertaking with the USC Annenberg School of Communication to train state election officers how to enhance cybersecurity.

“She enjoyed connecting people and you could see her love in helping others,” stated Matt Mansfield, a associate at a D.C.-based consulting agency who labored with Shackelford and have become a family good friend.

“She would talk to someone and they’d say something they needed in their business and she’d say, ‘Oh, I know someone. Let me help you.’ ”

Shackelford was known for having a “sly smile, wrapped in a bawdy sense of humor,” in accordance to an online tribute.

Her longtime good friend Catherine Wigginton, 43, of D.C. stated Shackelford was a pure storyteller who favored to drink bourbon and was known in her skilled — and private — lives for being “funny, irreverent, smart and outrageous.”

“She was just a force,” Wigginton stated.

After her mother and father died, Shackelford made her close-knit group of mates her “village,” Wigginton stated. She would invite mates for Thanksgiving and Easter dinners at her dwelling, which is embellished with a mixture of art work by her mom and mates, plus a few posters of the Grateful Dead, one in every of her favourite bands. She would generally get visitors to play croquet at Easter celebrations — a nod to one in every of her favourite motion pictures, “Heathers.”

Shackelford met Castelo, a lobbyist, at a occasion, and the 2 married in 2006.

Her mates and husband stated Shackelford was happiest when she was speaking about — or with — her son. She reveled in watching him study and develop, and shared tales with mates of how he favored taking part in baseball, took up bass guitar classes and was concerned with historical past.

Shackelford and Sam liked amassing seashells on walks at their family trip dwelling in Atlantic Beach, N.C.

“She loved seeing who he was becoming,” Wigginton stated. “She was delighted by him.”

In August, Shackelford was sick with cold-like signs and a fever, Castelo stated. She examined detrimental for the coronavirus and so did her husband and their son. But then Shackelford received sick once more.

Three days earlier than Christmas, her husband stated Shackelford began to have “cold-like symptoms” and “just wasn’t feeling good.” On Christmas Day, she stated she was drained and went again to mattress. She had no fever.

“We just didn’t think it was covid,” her husband stated.

She developed a cough the day after Christmas, so the next day they deliberate to see a physician. That morning, she went to take a bathe. Castelo heard a “loud noise” and raced to discover his spouse had fallen.

He known as 911 and paramedics arrived. She was taken to a hospital in cardiac arrest.

EMTs advised Castelo that she was stabilized and would quickly be taken to the intensive care unit, however a physician got here in quarter-hour later and “told me she had died,” Castelo stated.

His first thought, he recalled, was: “Oh, my God. I’m going to have to tell Sam.”

A good friend had taken their son when Shackelford grew to become in poor health. Castelo left the hospital, picked up his son and took him to a close by backyard space. He sat him on a bench and “just told him.”

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Castelo stated.

Castelo quickly examined optimistic for the coronavirus. His son examined detrimental. A babysitter took care of Sam within the family dwelling whereas Castelo was in isolation, and the daddy and son used walkie-talkies to talk.

Of his spouse’s sickness, Castelo stated, “we have no idea how this happened.” Other than working errands, they hardly ever left the home and by no means ate inside a restaurant through the pandemic. Both had been working from dwelling and their son was in on-line education.

“I have a hard time grasping how this was fatal for Tiffany and for me it felt like a bad sinus infection,” Castelo stated.

He continued: “You sit and watch the numbers on CNN at night,” he stated of coronavirus victims, “and you think, ‘That’s other people.’ We were doing everything we could to be safe.”

At her memorial service, solely 9 individuals had been allowed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the identical place in Alexandria the place her mother and father’ funerals had been years in the past. About 50 different individuals sat of their automobiles within the church’s parking zone, listening to the service on a low-frequency radio station.

Her husband learn a speech he had discovered of their attic after Shackelford’s loss of life. She had written it after graduating from highschool and browse it to her church’s congregation.

Shackelford had quoted from the music “Life Is a Highway”: “Life’s like a road that you travel on /When there’s one day here and the next day gone. /Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand. /Sometimes you turn your back to the wind.”

As the closing strains, she added: “Life is like a highway. We’ve got to journey on.”



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