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On the afternoon of January 29, 2008, a powerful windstorm blew through Columbia, Missouri, turning the day from mild to bitter cold. At the same time, Gail Shen passed away in her home. It would take such a heavy wind to extinguish her bright light. She was with family and at peace.
Gail Grunbock was born March 30, 1947 in Los Angeles, California to Wilma Mathews and Edgar Grunbock. She lived in San Luis Obispo, California until she was 12 years old. At 12, she rode the train across country to Columbia where she spent the remainder of her life. Gail graduated from University High School and attended Missouri University as an art major. In her freshman year history class, she met Sheldon Shen. They later married and had a son, Christopher, and daughter, Molliarda.
While family was her greatest love and legacy, Gail’s indelible mark is also evident through her artwork and her store, Gail Shen’s Chinatown.
There is no way to sum up Gail’s artistic vision. She created drawings, paintings, collages, beadwork, quilts, hats, mosaics, and more. Her style was often copied but never duplicated. One of her murals stood in the children’s reading section of the now defunct Chapter One bookstore. There is currently a mural in the library of Ridgeway Elementary School. A massive quilt hangs in the cafeteria of Stephens College. And treasured pieces hang in homes throughout the country.
Gail first opened her gift store, Chinatown, in 1978. The trinkets, toys and Chinese shoes have delighted generations of shoppers. It has always been a fanciful place where a child could walk in with a dollar and walk out with a bag of goodies. Gail felt passionately that people needed Chinatown, and customers assured her that was so.
In concert with her store and her artwork, Gail worked in the costume shop for Stephens College from 1997 to 2007. Students called seeing her their favorite part of coming to the costume shop. They described her joyful smile, positive spirit, sweet voice, upbeat personality and pretty blond curls. Her presence is missed there.
Gail is survived by her son Chris and his wife Christine, daughter Molly and her husband Ron, her ex-husband Sheldon and his wife Martha, her sister Diane and her grandchildren Jordan, Hannah, Rachel, Noah and Cody. The family invites you to celebrate Gail’s life with a sampling of artwork on Saturday, February 16 at the Stephens College cafeteria, located in the Stamper Commons at 1300 E. Broadway. This memorial showing will be open from 2 to 4:30 p.m.