Gilana was born on April 2, 1981, and was the kind of child who wanted to do everything. Even before she had any recollection of it, Gilana was involved in an activity that foreshadowed her future. She made her first stage appearance at three months, when she had a “carry on” role and the lead actor sang to her.
At age four, she started dance classes in jazz, tap and ballet that continued throughout her school years. She sang in the choir in middle and high school, took piano lessons, and Gilana attended rehearsals with her mother when she choreographed the high school show. At the Temple where her father was the rabbi, Gilana used her musical gifts, and ran the music program for the children. She seemed to build upon her multi-faceted education in such a way that she was prepared to pass on her knowledge and interest to others. She thrived on bringing out the best in people.
At age 13, as a descendant of Holocaust survivors, she was selected by Channel One to report on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2005, Gilana and her mother teamed up to direct a play set during the Holocaust. Her courage to face the horrors of history broke a silence that Gilana was convinced could no longer be kept. She strongly felt that everyone needed to be given the chance to live up to their potential regardless of ethnic, religious or any other tradition.
As a high school student Gilana performed with Muskegon Civic Theatre Children’s Repertory Touring Company and chaired the Youth Advisory Council at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. In later years, she taught theater classes for Muskegon Civic Theatre. It was little wonder that Gilana went on to study theater at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana after graduating from high school in 1999.
Gilana majored in Theater, minored in Human Sexuality, and was also interested in classic Greek and Roman history. While at university, she volunteered at Hillel, a Jewish Campus Organization, and worked at a Jewish summer camp as a song leader and counselor.
Gilana was very proud of her heritage, and she retained close ties with her family. She was very devoted to her family. She loved her brother and sister deeply and swelled with affection for her beloved parents. All of their lives were made rich because of her. The same wonderful, inquisitive, challenging child who delighted them in her youth, became an adult who made them proud. The funny, goofy kid was at the same time a serious learner and a charismatic conversationalist. She could befriend young and old alike and make everyone feel that they were the most important person in the room. Gilana never did anything halfway; she was passionate about life itself.
After graduating from university, Gilana moved to Chicago where she found retail work in an Adult Boutique and ended up teaching some courses on human sexuality. She began to realize the lack of understanding people had about themselves and their bodies and her natural spirit of wanting to help others kicked in. While teaching workshops she found it “….incredibly satisfiying knowing that you're making an impact. It makes me feel like I'm helping keep people safe…helping people is still helping people. “ Her desire to help led Gilana to consider a master’s degree in sex education. She was starting to really find herself in this pursuit when tragedy struck. She suffered a series of strokes caused by what doctors believe was a rare reaction to medication she was taking for chronically severe migraine headaches.
Gilana Shira was a passionate and caring person who is greatly missed by her adoring family, cherished friends, and grateful community.