The outpouring of community love and support for her family in the wake of the sudden loss of her husband Shane Sherlock has left Stephanie Tribe in awe.
When word got out about Shane suffering a fatal heart attack Feb. 5 at work that Saturday, local resident Alison Waller began a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $5,000 for Tribe and her children Chloe (24), Paige (21), Marty (14) and Ty (11). At press time, $19,195 had been donated by 130 people, almost quadrupling the target amount.
In addition, another local resident, Jennifer Buchanan-Olsen, initiated a campaign to help the family out with meal donations on a website called Meal Train. Again, the response to Buchanan-Olsen’s appeal has surpassed any expectations.
“It’s insane to me,” marvels Stephanie. “It’s all of these moms that we’ve met over the years, through hockey, or Niagara Nursery School, and there’s a massive list of them. They all just got together and did this. It’s mind blowing to me. I’m shocked and humbled.”
Someone even delivered a freezer to the family’s Chautauqua-area home to store the excess food being dropped off. Stephanie has frequently returned home from walking their dog Rufus to find bags of groceries at her doorstep.
Donations and phone calls of support have been coming in from people the couple hadn’t seen or spoken to in 20-plus years, many of them sharing stories of Shane’s younger, more “reckless days,” in her words.
The donations of food have been especially helpful through the last week and a half, as she finds herself exhausted each day due to the combination of emotions and all the phone calls of support that she has been receiving.
The couple were together for 26 years. They met when Stephanie was 18 years old, attending Niagara District Secondary School. Though Shane was eight years older than her, she says she had often run into him in various social settings, and was drawn in by his charm and his cool factor.
“We both went to Parliament Oak and Niagara District, but not at the same time,” she says. “He was living out west but came back home for a visit when I met him. When he went back I was heart-broken, but six months later he came back to Niagara and we’ve been together ever since.”
Within a year Stephanie was pregnant with Chloe, and the two discussed how they wanted to raise her. They were committed to being parents who always put their kids first, providing them with any and all opportunities they wanted and needed.
From the earliest days as a family unit Shane threw himself into his role as a father. When Chloe and then Paige attended Niagara Nursery School in the days when it was a cooperative, it was Shane who took part in the required parental duty days, partly due to Stephanie’s incredible shyness. She has photographs of Shane sitting in the mini kitchen there working with Chloe and the other children to get ‘breakfast’ ready.
And over the last 24 years he was never one to sit back and just watch the kids play. He always wanted to be playing with them, whether it was swimming at Ryerson Park, skating on the nearby pond or playing street hockey.
When other kids came by to play or hang out, Shane would still play along with the group, acting just like one of them. Stephanie would often hear from her children’s friends about how cool a dad Shane was.
“Ty has this amazing group from his hockey team. They’ve been friends since kindergarten,” Stephanie says. “The one mom picked up all these kids last week. Each kid came in with food to give us. They all came in crying, and just circled Ty with this big hug, saying ‘we all loved your dad, he was so cool and so fun’.”
As the family grew, the Tribe-Sherlocks became unofficial ambassadors of Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake. Shane would often be seen riding his bicycle along with the kids, accompanying them to Ball’s Beach, Queen’s Royal Park and other locations throughout town.
In fact, when this newspaper launched in January, 2019, its very first edition featured a large front-page photo of Sherlock walking Rufus in front of the gazebo at Queen’s Royal Park, trailed closely by Ty and Marty.
“He loved Niagara,” she says. “He was all over the marina when he was younger, and Navy Hall, too. He and his friends would float down the river and do all kinds of crazy things. One guy at the arena remembers them making a ramp at the bottom of King Street. They would ride their BMX bikes down the hill and ramp off into the lake.”
Shane was determined that his children would get the most out of the town as he did at that age. Stephanie says like his father, Ty rarely sits in the house, preferring instead to get outside to burn off his energy. And all four children picked up their father’s ability and propensity to speak to anybody, local or tourist.
As the family of six spent so much time together, Stephanie often underestimated how well-respected and loved her husband was.
“He was incredibly smart, and he could talk to anyone, from the homeless to millionaires who lived in town,” she says. “But he was very opinionated, and would speak his mind, too. Some people wouldn’t know how to take him. So it’s so amazing to hear all the great things people are saying about him.”
Waller’s son Nikola is one of those kids on Ty’s hockey team.
“Stephanie said she had told her mom that she and Shane had no friends,” Waller says. “But I think we all get so busy that we just don’t realize how many people our lives have touched. Their family was always so visible, always together doing something fun.”
Waller remembers Shane taking the boys fishing and accompanying them on bike rides. He would even construct unique bicycles for them to ride. Last summer, when the pair wanted to play flag football, Shane stepped up to coach, even though he knew nothing about the game. And at a recent sleepover at the Tribe-Sherlock home, he helped them pitch a tent on top of the trampoline.
Buchanan-Olsen got the meal train rolling after talking to Joy Janzen, who had begun organizing a spreadsheet for those who wanted to help the family out. Her son Dean played hockey with Ty last year, and Buchanan-Olsen coached Marty in soccer a couple of summers ago.
“Shane and Stephanie are an institution in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Buchanan-Olsen tells The Local. “I don’t think a season has gone by that I haven’t caught up with them. I always see them together at Simcoe Park, Virgil Sports Park, at the arena. And Shane has always been the kindest person, ready to help anybody.”
She isn’t as surprised about the response to the GoFundMe or Meal Train campaigns as Stephanie is.
“We all wanted to give Stephanie and the kids some sort of support,” Buchanan-Olsen says. “That’s what I love about Niagara-on-the-Lake, that no matter what happens, people flock to help out. Maybe we can’t fix it (for the family) but at least we can let them know we’ve got their back. That should be the town’s slogan.”
Though not religious, Shane was involved at St. Mark’s Church, working with his uncle to help maintain the lawn and the graveyard. In recent years he had discovered more about his family’s heritage in NOTL — the Sherlock name goes back over 200 years in the town. Stephanie says that Shane, in fact, was the second-last baby born at the old hospital on Queen Street.
A welder by trade, Shane worked hard to provide for his kids, taking on every job that came his way, and accepting overtime opportunities whenever they arose. Stephanie adds that no matter how long his work day was, he would always throw himself into whatever family activity was happening when he got home.
Whether it was dance class, soccer, swim team or hockey, he and Stephanie made sure if their kids wanted to be involved that they had the chance.
Shane’s health had declined the last few years. After putting it off for a long stretch, he had a hernia operation not long ago and was struggling to regain his appetite. He had lost a lot of weight, but continued to work long hours. As well, he had a number of bouts with the flu, leading to kidney problems.
“He took incredible care of his family, but not such great care of himself,” Stephanie says.
When he didn’t show up for a hockey game that Saturday, and he wasn’t answering his phone, Stephanie reported him missing. His employer found him hours later.
Over 26 years, Stephanie says the couple rarely spent a day apart. And the great majority of those days was spent right here in NOTL.
“He was so connected to Niagara,” she says of Shane. “And he was definitely a family guy, he threw himself into everything when it came to the family.”
“If he saw this,” Stephanie says of the community support, tears welling up, “he’d say ‘this is the Niagara I grew up in, this is the Niagara that I love’. This has really, really opened my eyes to exactly what a community this is. It’s very, very comforting.”