The cause was cancer, said a son, Eric Lengel.
Mrs. Lengel, who also went by Shelley and Shellie, began her federal career as a public information writer for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the 1960s and worked for what became HHS from 1976 to 1988.
The first AIDS cases were identified in 1981, and the death toll rapidly grew into the thousands. Amid the growing AIDS crisis and public confusion about the disease, some municipalities established hotlines to help provide information, counseling and referrals to those with the disease.
The federal government responded in 1983, and Mrs. Lengel was asked to oversee the toll-free help line. A taped message about AIDS ran 24 hours a day, and personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health fielded calls during business hours.
On the first day of operation, phone lines were reportedly swamped by 13,000 callers. Many operators referred callers to another toll-free AIDS hotline staffed by what was then the National Gay Task Force, whose employees could make medical referrals, according to The Washington Post.
Mrs. Lengel later was asked to work on a national public education program to separate rumor from fact and quell what she called “waves of hysteria associated with blood donations and children with AIDS.”
Shelbia Jean Looper was born in Albany, Ky., on Dec. 21, 1936, and graduated from a high school in Charleston, W.Va. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University in 1957.
In the early 1970s, she worked for the nascent Environmental Protection Agency, helped organize the first Earth Day and served as executive director of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Reading, Pa., where she lived at the time.
She was a volunteer for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, an organization in Washington specializing in HIV/AIDS care. She moved to Charlottesville from Arlington, Va., around 2000.
Survivors include her husband of 58 years, Alan Lengel of Charlottesville; two sons, Eric Lengel of Fairfax County, Va., and Ed Lengel of Charlottesville; and five grandchildren. Her son Andy Lengel died of AIDS in 1994.
Washington Post obituaries
Bobby Lynn Maslen, whose Bob Books helped millions become readers, dies at 87
Randy Weston, pianist and composer who celebrated jazz’s African roots, dies at 92
Rodney W. Nichols, who led N.Y. Academy of Sciences during difficult time, dies at 80
Sister Wendy Beckett, a Roman Catholic nun of the Sisters of Notre Dame and well-known art critic on TV, died at age 88 on Dec. 26. Read the obituary Nancy Grace Roman, the first chief of astronomy at NASA headquarters and the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA, died on Dec. 25 at age 93. She was celebrated as the “mother” of the Hubble Space Telescope. Read the obituary Norman Gimbel, Oscar-winning lyricist of “Happy Days” theme and “Girl From Ipanema,” died at 91 on Dec. 19 at his home in Montecito, Calif. Read the obituary Penny Marshall, left, who co-starred in the long-running sitcom “Laverne Shirley” with Cindy Williams, right, and parlayed her fame into a career directing crowd-pleasing movies such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” making her the first woman to helm movies that earned more than $100 million, died Dec. 17 at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She was 75. Read the obituary Nancy Wilson, an award-winning singer whose beguiling expressiveness in jazz, R&B, gospel, soul and pop made her a crossover recording star for five decades and who also had a prolific career as an actress, activist and commercial spokeswoman, died Dec. 13 at her home in Pioneertown, Calif. She was 81. Read the obituary George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, was a
steadfast force on the international stage for decades, from his stint as an envoy to Beijing to his eight years as vice president and his one term as commander in chief from 1989 to 1993.
He died Nov. 30 at 94. Read the obituary Stephen Hillenburg, a onetime marine biology teacher who created “SpongeBob SquarePants,” an Emmy Award-winning animated Nickelodeon program about a goofy underwater world that was the defining cartoon show of its generation, died Nov. 26 at his home near Los Angeles. He was 57. Read the obituary Movie director Bernardo Bertolucci, right, checks a scene during the filming of the movie “The Last Emperor.” Bertolucci died Nov. 25 at his home in Rome. He was 77. Read the obituary James H. Billington, an eminent American scholar of Russian culture who reigned for three decades as librarian of Congress, died Nov. 20 at a hospital in Washington. He was 89. Read the obituary William Goldman, Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men,” died Nov. 16 at 87 at his home in Manhattan of complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. Read the obituary Comic book creator and executive producer Stan Lee died at age 95. Read the obituary James “Whitey” Bulger, whose bloody reign in the Boston underworld was aided by crooked FBI agents in the 1980s and who later went on the lam for 16 years, living incognito by the California seashore, was found dead Oct. 30 while completing the first of his two life sentences. He was 89. Read the obituary Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, died Oct. 16. Read the obituary Burt Reynolds, center, whose blend of machismo and wiseguy playfulness launched his celebrity in the 1970s — first as a freewheeling chat-show guest, then as a nude centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine and finally as a Hollywood action star — died Sept. 6. He was 82. Read the obituary Paul Taylor, the modern dance choreographer whose work encapsulated the human experience in exquisite simplicity and whose artistic range led his self-titled dance group to a level of international renown, died Aug. 29 at a hospital in New York. He was 88. Read the obituary George Walker, first African American composer to win Pulitzer Prize, died Aug. 23 at 96, at a hospital in Montclair, N.J. Read the obituary Neil Simon, the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning author of plays such as “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers” who was often called the world’s most popular playwright after Shakespeare, died Aug. 26 at age 91. Read the obituary Senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, driven by code of honor, died at 81. John McCain, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July 2017, endured more than five years of imprisonment and torture by the North Vietnamese as a young Navy pilot. He went on to battle foes — on the left and the right — in the marble corridors of Washington. A Republican who seemed his truest self when outraged, he reveled in opposing orthodoxy and spent decades representing Arizona in the Senate. He twice ran unsuccessfully for president. Read the obituary. Robin Leach, a British-born TV personality and unapologetic practitioner of “Jacuzzi journalism” whose long-running show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ogled the world’s most conspicuous consumers consuming conspicuously, died Aug. 23 at a hospital in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He was 76. Kofi Annan of Ghana, whose popular and influential reign as secretary general of the United Nations was marred by White House anger at his opposition to the American invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s, died Aug. 18 in Bern, Switzerland. He was 80. Read the obituary R&B singer Aretha Franklin is seen during her youth. The “Queen of Soul” died Aug. 16 at 76. Read the obituary. Washington Post reporter and columnist Warren Brown, who brought race and class-conscious insights to his coverage of the automotive industry and who wrote about his health struggles and the kidney he received from a colleague, died July 26 at a hospital in Manassas, Va. He was 70. Read the obituary Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga uncovered evidence suggesting the United States’ World War II internment policy had racist motives and was not a result of “military necessity,” as Pentagon officials claimed. She was 93 when she died July 18 at a hospital in Torrance, Calif. Read the obituary Frank Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy Barbato Sinatra, shown in 1949 with Frank and their children, from left, Nancy, Tina and Frank Jr., died on July 13 at 101. Read the obituary Anthony Bourdain, the chef who became a world-traveling storyteller as the host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” died on June 8 in France. He was 61. Read the obituary. Kate Spade, the fashion designer best known for her iconic line of handbags, was found dead June 5 at her home in Manhattan. She was 55. Read the obituary. Philip Roth, the acclaimed author seen as “the voice of his generation,” died May 22 at age 85. Read the obituary. Tom Wolfe, author of such books as “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” “The Right Stuff” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” died May 14 at 88. Read the obituary. Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the 1978 blockbuster “Superman,” died May 13 at 69. Read the obituary
. Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, a Korean-born martial artist who settled in Washington and helped popularize taekwondo in the United States, preaching a philosophy of “truth, beauty and love” while teaching members of Congress how to kick and punch, died April 30 at an assisted-living community in Arlington, Va. He was 86. Read the obituary Verne Troyer, an actor who was known best for his role as Mini-Me, a pint-size version of Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil in two “Austin Powers” movies, died April 21. He was 49. Mr. Troyer, who was 2 foot 8, appeared in dozens of movies and TV series, including “Jack of All Trades” and “Boston Public.” His most famous role, by far, was as Mini-Me, first in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (1999) and in “Austin Powers in Goldmember” (2002). Read the obituary Bruno Sammartino, foreground, fled to the mountains of Italy with his family during World War II and came to the United States at 14, weighing just 80 pounds. Within 10 years, he built himself into a 275-pound mound of muscle, with remarkable strength and a relentless, blue-collar style that made him one of the most popular professional wrestlers of the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Sammartino, who was once among the highest-paid athletes in the United States, died April 18 at a hospital in Pittsburgh. He was 82. Read the obituary Barbara Bush, who was the wife of one president and the mother of another and whose embrace of her image as America’s warmhearted grandmother belied her influence and mettle, died April 17. She was 92. As the matriarch of one of America’s political dynasties, Mrs. Bush spent a half century in the public eye. She was portrayed as the consummate wife and homemaker as her husband rose from Texas oilman to commander in chief. They had six children, the eldest of whom, George W. Bush, became president. Their eldest daughter, Robin, died at age 3 of leukemia, a tragedy that had a profound impact on the family. Read the obituary Carl Kasell, a radio personality who brought gravitas and goofiness to the airwaves, first as a staid newsreader on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and later as the comic foil and scorekeeper on the delightfully silly news quiz show “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!,” died April 17 at an assisted-living center in Potomac, Md. He was 84. Read the obituary Donald McKayle, a Tony-nominated choreographer who created classic works of modern dance and was the first black man to direct and choreograph Broadway musicals, died April 6 at a hospital in Orange, Calif. He was 87. Read the obituary Winnie Madikizela-Mandela addresses a crowd in Kagiso township in April 1986. The ex-wife of South African anti-apartheid fighter and former president Nelson Mandela died April 2 in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness at the age of 81, her spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement. Read the obituary. Steven Bochco, a television writer and producer whose gritty police procedurals and courtroom dramas, notably “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue,” injected ambitious storytelling, quirky ensemble casts and occasional nudity into what was then a critically derided form of mass entertainment, died April 1 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74. Read the obituary Charles Lazarus, who transformed his father’s Washington bicycle business into Toys R Us, a retail giant that rivaled Santa Claus’s workshop before it declared bankruptcy in September 2017, died March 22. He was 94. Read the obituary Illustrator Robert Grossman, who created a surreal movie poster for “Airplane!” and caricatured presidents from Richard M. Nixon to Donald Trump, died March 15 at his home in Manhattan. He was 78. Read the obituary Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a folksy New York liberal who championed women’s rights and American manufacturing for more than three decades as a Democratic congresswoman, died March 16 at a hospital in Washington. She was 88 and the oldest sitting member of Congress. Read the obituary Stephen W. Hawking, the British theoretical physicist who overcame a devastating neurological disease to probe the greatest mysteries of the cosmos and become a globally celebrated symbol of the power of the human mind, died March 14 at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76. Unable to move nearly any of his muscles, speechless but for a computer-synthesized voice, Dr. Hawking had suffered since the age of 21 from a degenerative motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read the obituary Propelled by an ever-lengthening stride and extraordinary willpower, the lanky British medical student Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. He pitched over the finish line at the University of Oxford’s Iffley Road track on a dank, blustery day — May 6, 1954 — and electrified England during its post-World War II doldrums. Dr. Bannister, who died March 3 at age 88, became a national hero at a time when mavericks around the world were overcoming the long-perceived physical boundaries of man and nature. Read the obituary Scottish milliner John Boyd’s hats were worn by several members of the royal family, including Princess Anne and Diana, the princess of Wales. Boyd died Feb. 20 at 92. Read the obituary The Rev. Billy Graham, the evangelist whose eloquent oratory and passion for Jesus attracted a worldwide following and made him one of the most influential and best-known religious figures of his time, died on Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99. See more photos | Read the obituary African American history author and former Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett Jr. died in Chicago at age 89 on Feb. 15. Read the obituary. Marty Allen, fuzzy-haired member of popular 1960s comedy duo Allen & Rossi, died at 95 on Feb. 12 in Las Vegas. Read the obituary. John Mahoney, the Tony-winning actor who played a crotchety blue-collar father on TV’s “Frasier,” died Feb. 4 at 77. Read the obituary. Oscar Gamble, an outfielder who hit 200 home runs over 17 major league seasons and was famous during his playing days for an Afro that spilled out from under his cap, died Jan. 31 at a hospital in Birmingham, Ala. He was 68. Read the obituary. Jacquie Jones, a prizewinning public television film director who for nine years was executive director of the nonprofit National Black Programming Consortium, died Jan. 28 at a hospital in Washington. She was 52. Read the obituary. Ingvar Kamprad, 91, who was the founder of the worldwide furniture chain Ikea, died on Jan. 28. Read the obituary. Mort Walker, whose “Beetle Bailey” comic strip followed the exploits of a lazy G.I. and his inept cohorts at the dysfunctional Camp Swampy, and whose dedication to his art form led him to found the first museum devoted to the history of cartooning, died Jan. 27 at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 94. Read the obituary. Author Ursula K. Le Guin, the award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer who explored feminist themes and was best known for her Earthsea books, died Jan. 22, in Portland, Ore. She was 88. Read the obituary. Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics drives past the Chicago Bulls’ Wilbur Holland in Chicago in 1977. White, a Hall of Famer, two-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist, died Jan. 16 at 71. Read the obituary. Edwin Hawkins, 74, a Grammy-winning gospel star best known for the hit “Oh, Happy Day,” died Jan. 15. Read the obituary. Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Irish band the Cranberries, died Jan. 15 at age 46 in London. Read the obituary. Keith Jackson, the folksy voice of college football who for decades wove backwoods wit throughout his Saturday broadcasts on ABC, died Jan. 12. He was 89. His signature phrase was “Whoa, Nellie!” Read the obituary. Denise LaSalle, a Hall of Fame soul and blues singer and songwriter whose earthy lyrics and sexually explicit stage patter made her an enduring presence in predominantly black clubs and theaters, died Jan. 8 at 83. Read the obituary. Thomas Bopp, right, here with other comet hunters, from left, David Levy, Don Yeomans and Alan Hale, received a flurry of international attention and a form of scientific immortality from the Hale-Bopp comet that bears his name. He died Jan. 5 at age 68. Read the obituary. Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, being promoted to brigadier general by Gen. William Westmoreland in 1970. Hays, the first female general in American military history, died Jan. 7 at age 97. Read the obituary. John Young, NASA’s longest-serving astronaut, who flew in space six times, walked on the moon, commanded the first space shuttle and became the conscience of the astronaut corps, advocating for safety measures in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster, died Jan. 5 at age 87. Read the obituary.
Photo Gallery: Remembering those who have died in 2018.