Ladies Valentine's Party

Sheila Rainer is seen in February at her annual Valentine’s Party at the Gregg County AgriLife Extension Center.

Reporter's note: This story and headline have been corrected from an earlier version.

Friends and colleagues remembered Sheila Rainer on Tuesday for her hugs, colorful wardrobes and commitment to people at their loneliest.

The 18-year Gregg County employee, who formerly owned Rainer’s store in Longview with her husband, died Saturday.

Rainer also was known for her annual Valentine’s Day party for widows and single women, which she started about 25 years ago when her mother became a widow.

“I remember the first time I saw Sheila,” longtime Deputy County Clerk Gladyce Carver said. “She looked like a flower child from the 1960s, but she was just like that. She was just a loving, free spirit, and I just loved her. I didn’t know anybody that met her that didn’t love her.

“I just feel like God called one of his angels home.”

Rainer, 64, of Longview worked in the auditor’s office and the sheriff’s office before directing the county-owned Longview Community Center. She also organized the annual Christmas at the Courthouse for several years, colleagues said.

“She put that whole thing together every year,” Deputy County Clerk Judy McKnight said about the parade.

McKnight shared photos Tuesday of Rainer dressed in holiday themes — red from head to toe for Valentine’s Day, or green down to the stockings for St. Patrick’s Day. Rainer also dressed up like Elvis Presley on his birthday, complete with black sideburns, McKnight said.

“She celebrated his birthday every year,” McKnight said. “It was always boas and hats and scarves — and beautiful.”

“And hugs,” Carver chimed in.

Gregg County Human Resources Director Rita Fyffe described Rainer as “one of those special people” who also was flamboyant and always upbeat.

“That was really her calling I think, just taking care of everybody,” Fyffe said. “She would have taken care of anybody. She just wanted to take care of everybody.”

“She was the sweetest woman I ever met in my whole entire life,” county employee Cindy Garrett said of Rainer. “She was really, really nice and I loved that she was comfortable being who she was really was, you know what I mean? She was very unique, and she was comfortable being herself, and I liked that.”

Deputy bookkeeper Becky Pinkston recalled Rainer’s commitment to visit people when they were sick, hospitalized or just needed a friendly face for conversation.

“Even when she was not feeling well herself, she took care of people,” Pinkston said. “She would go to the hospital and sit with people, go to their homes and sit with people, and she survived on very little sleep because she was so busy taking care of other people.”

Retired County Clerk Connie Wade met Rainer in 2006 when Wade’s mother was in a hospital intensive care unit. Rainer came to pray with Wade’s family and would remain a presence in her life, she said.

“I think what I loved most about Sheila was she was irrepressible,” Wade said. “It didn’t matter how bad her day was or she was feeling ill or someone in her family was ill. The conversation always ended with a little bit of a laugh or a positive thought, and she was probably the person I know who was more constant in her Christian faith than anybody I know. She will be missed.”

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Longview, with interment to follow at Rosewood Park.