The column was called “The Curious Psychic,” and it ran in The News Tribune for more than a decade.
It was an apt description of Shirlee Teabo, who teamed with writer/sister Jacquie Witherrite as she looked into paranormal activities — from UFO sightings to reading tea leaves.
“The column wasn’t just about us. We did interviews, we talked about topics from menopause to near-death experiences to women in mythology,” Jacquie said this week. “She had a gift, and she spent her life trying to give that gift to others.”
After a fall led to her hospitalization, Shirlee Teabo died last week. She was 80 years old, and had embraced life through marriages and a divorce, motherhood and the fame that came with her “gift.”
Always, she was fascinated with psychic phenomenon. If others disbelieved, she respected their opinions.
Born in Canada, Shirlee moved to Tacoma with her family as a 7-year-old, grew up in the Northwest and lived here most of her life. A WAVE, she served in Navy Intelligence, adopted three children and fell into psychic readings out of near-desperation.
“Someone brought her a deck of Egyptian tarot cards and said, ‘This is what you should be doing with your life,’ ” Jacquie said. “She gave readings for free to friends, and the people friends referred to her.
“She didn’t become a professional psychic until Mom would put a tea pot out with a $5 bill next to it. People began leaving $5.”
In her autobiography, “Evolution of a Psychic,” Shirlee said she made $1,005 her first year.
Then she was invited to be a guest on local television.
“She made an appearance on ‘Seattle Today,’ and by the time she got home, Mom had booked the next three months just by answering the telephone,” Jacquie said. “Shirlee supported herself and our mother.
“She was funny, successful, larger than life. She did readings for stockbrokers, housewives, the president of Peru — and she gave each the same attention.
“One of her favorite days was when a shuttle would come from a senior center every three months, and people would come in for readings,” Jacquie said.
Shirlee wrote that, if she saw bad news during her readings, she would tell the person only what she thought they could handle.
Beginning in 1987, The Curious Psychic appeared weekly in The News Tribune. Jacquie did the writing – Shirlee didn’t own a computer, and never would.
“The News Tribune hired us, and after our first column ran, that Sunday the entire page of letters to the editor was about us — someone called us the daughters of Satan, some people threatened to pull their advertising,” Jacquie said. “The paper stuck with us and within a few months, it was very popular.”
The topics ranged from numerology to interviews with everyone from Deepak Chopra to Bill Moyers, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to Jerry Brown – who, at the time, was running for president.
There was also the absolute candor of Shirlee’s voice, explaining how she did what she did.
“When I am doing a reading, it is at the client’s invitation,” she said in one column. “They open the door themselves. I am then somehow able to pick up information pertaining to them.
“But I don’t walk down the street being bombarded by ‘the vibes,’ and I don’t read people’s minds at lunch.”
Shirlee continued to give readings, radio interviews and lectures until January.
“There was a power outage and she fell backward into the tub and lay there for 15 hours,” Jacquie said. “Over the next 10 weeks, she was in the hospital or a rehab center.”
She took a second fall in the rehab center, and the last 10 weeks she was sick and injured.
“The day before she died, I talked to her on the telephone, and she said, ‘It’s OK,’ ” Jacquie said.
“I’ve been contacted by many of her clients, and when I tell them she’s gone, some of them break into sobs. In some cases, she’d worked with two, three generations in a family.
“She loved being a star. She loved it when her book came out. She loved having a newspaper column,” Jacquie said. “Shirlee was a force of nature.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638