A Legacy Not Lost

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Remembering Edith Shelby

You can learn anything you need to know about The Late Edith Shelby based on what happened to her in the early hours of Sept. 21, 2009.

On that memorable morning five years ago, Edith awoke at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom. The 87-year-old Lilburn resident put on her bedroom slippers and made her way down the hall. Walking along, she noticed something felt strange about the floor. Her indoor shoes squishing like sponges in the dark. When she flipped on the light she saw much to her horror that the floor was covered in water from wall to wall.

She sloshed her way through the house, trying to make sense of what was happening. Upon reaching the kitchen, Edith realized the water was above her ankles now and seemed to be rising swiftly. Deciding it was time to leave the house, she grabbed her pocketbook, opened the kitchen door and stepped into the garage.

She flipped the switch on the wall to open the garage door. But it didn”t work. Something malfunctioned. The water was up to her chest now as she surveyed her surroundings, trying to figure out what to do. A loud bang startled Edith. A massive log floating through a neighbor”s yard. The force of the large piece of lumber busted down the garage door, and Edith swam out.

Her arms and legs pumped, keeping her afloat in the murky waters. Despite being nearly 90 years old, Edith was physically fit. She spent several days a week at step aerobics classes and went for daily walks.

The 500-year-flood that hit Lilburn that morning would put her to the test, both mentally and physically. But she was ready for a fight. Edith Shelby was no stranger to adversity.

Many remember Edith Shelby as a strong woman and community activist.

A Story of Struggle
Born Sept. 11, 1922, in Berlin, Germany, Edith Anneliese Wilhelmine Lindau was the only child of Anna and Otto Lindau. The hardships were many during and after World War II. She and her mother stood in line for food rations. They survived hundreds of bombing raids, being awakened by the sound of explosions night after night. Fleeing to the basement shelter, waiting until it was safe to return to their beds.

Financial struggles continued after the war. She and her family scraped by on odd jobs and tried to stay positive. In the early 1950s, Edith met a young man, Daniel Shelby, who was a war refugee from Bulgaria. They planned their life together and plotted a move to the United States. Daniel had some medical issues that put a temporary hold on their plans. He became very sick on the boat trip over to the United States. But by 1952 they had moved to Manhattan and were married. They later moved to New Jersey and considered the prospect of a daughter or son. Doctors however told Edith that she and her husband could not have children. Despite the news, in 1959 a daughter was born. Evie was unexpected and premature, but she thrived, growing up and moving to Georgia in 1983.

Evie married Brent Hoffman in 1983 and was expecting a daughter by 1986. That year, Edith and Daniel moved to Georgia to be closer to their daughter, Evie, and the growing family. In 1992, Edith lost her husband. She and Evie”s family all moved to Lilburn. Edith bought a house on Mandalay Drive in Lilburn, where she would live until the flood.

After the Flood
Evie Hoffman was still half asleep when she answered the telephone the morning of Sept. 21, 2009. The words coming from the other end didn”t make much sense. There was a flood. Her mother, Edith, was stuck in a tree. Evie hung up the phone and woke her husband.

Before rescuers arrived that morning, the 87-year-old woman was indeed stuck in a tree. As the waters overtook her home of 16 years, Edith swam her way over, grabbing hold of the large trunk and clutched it with all her strength. She screamed for help.

A 12-year-old neighbor awoke to the sound of what he thought was an injured animal. He woke up his parents, and the family headed out the door. The boy”s father swam out to assist Edith who was struggling to keep her head above the rising waters. He held onto her until the rescuers got there.

Later that morning as the sun rose on a strange new day, Edith sat in her daughter”s kitchen with the family. She was wearing her grandson, Brandon”s, T-shirt and shorts—the only dry clothing that Evie happened to have in her car when she picked her mother up from the hospital.

Several miles away, Edith”s house was still underwater. The only personal belongings she could lay claim to were the contents of her purse. Everything else was gone. Despite this, Evie remembers that her mother was in good spirits. “She lost nearly everything she owned,” Evie said. “She never shed a tear over it. She seemed just as happy as ever that morning. Her strength was just amazing.”

It was that same strength that would also carry her through a decades-long battle with cancer. Through the loss of her husband. Being told she would never have children. Living through the bombing of Berlin during World War II. Her”s was a life full of adversity from beginning to end. But she filled her days with happiness. She was an active member of Harmony Grove United Methodist Church. She was also named volunteer of the year at Eastside Medical Center.

On Jan. 20, 2014 Edith Shelby passed away at the age of 91. To this day, Evie finds inspiration in the way her mother lived. “She taught me to keep going no matter what. She had the desire, the drive, to move forward through whatever happened in her life. She taught me to be stronger than circumstances.”

Evie remembers her mom used to tell her: “Today, I may not be doing so well, but tomorrow will be a better day.”