Celebrating Women: Virginia Shehee

Local News

Few people in Shreveport history have shined as brightly as business woman and philanthropist Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee.

Before passing away at the age of 91 in 2015, Virginia Shehee touched the lives of thousands, and her contributions will have an impact on generations to come.

Shehee was the first woman to be elected to the Louisiana State Senate, and her leadership in countless projects included saving Shreveport’s Strand Theater and forming the Biomedical Research Foundation.

She supported the arts and gave unsparingly to those in need.

“She cared about people,” said daughter Nell Shehee. “She was strong. She was confident, and she knew how to get people who were like-minded who were also strong, also confident. She was able to form a team of winners.”

Perhaps Virginia Shehee’s greatest gift was her example.

She lived her life in an authentic, sometimes unconventional way, paving the way and often providing the resources to help others live their own best life.

“People responded to her because she was sincere,” Nell Shehee said.

Nell believes her mother would not have become her highest self, had she not dealt with tragedy and hardship early in life.

“She thought she was going to have this idyllic life, married to an attorney, living in this exciting city Washington DC. She had my older sister, my older brother, was pregnant with me, and it all fell apart,” Nell said of her mother.

In 1956, however, Virginia Shehee not only ended up being a divorced, single mother, but also lost her father to lung cancer.

It was then that Virginia moved home to Shreveport to help her mother Nellie Kilpatrick run the family businesses… Kilpatrick Life Insurance and Rose-Neath Funeral Homes.

“It was interesting growing up with two independent, fiercely independent women, who relied on themselves. I’m not sure I would have had the resilience my mother had if I had been in the position that she was in… in the 1950’s,” Nell Shehee said. 

Virginia Shehee married again, and that marriage, to Peyton Shehee, lasted more than four decades. The couple left their mark on the community with their contributions.

Nell Shehee says her mother taught her many lessons, most importantly, to be strong, to be a good person and to be generous.

“To reach out and help people. It’s really simple but that’s what her legacy is,” her daughter concluded. 

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