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Life Story / Obituary
Gilana Shira Alpert was born during a decade that has been tagged the Me Generation of status seekers, but nothing could be further from the truth of Gilana’s character. She was compassionate and caring, invested in people and eager to make a difference in the world.
She drew strength and courage, love and joy from her family and the community that nurtured her faith and convictions. The way she lived her life showed what her mother described as “wisdom in her eyes, beyond her years.”
Gilana was the oldest child of Alan and Anna (Drumlewicz) Alpert, born on April 2, 1981 in Muskegon Michigan. Her sister Aleza was born in 1983 and her brother David was born in 1985. Their parents had come to Muskegon from Los Angeles in 1976 when their father took the position of Rabbi at Temple B’Nai Israel, the only Jewish synagogue in Muskegon. Their mother taught Ballet at Cassell Dance Studio and was a choreographer for local theater productions. Baby Gilana began walking at nine months, and her parents contend that she just kept on going.
Gilana 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. Already at an early age, Gilana became the social director of the little kids in the neighborhood, organizing games and activities. She thrived on bringing out the best in people.
The Alpert family lived in Roosevelt Park before moving to Norton Shores, where Gilana attended Campbell and Churchill Elementary schools and Mona Shores High School. She was an excellent student and involved in school and religious life. She sang in the choir in middle and high school, took piano lessons, and attended rehearsals with her mother when she choreographed the high school show, “Pop Go the Sailors.” At Temple, Gilana used her musical gifts as cantor, and she 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.
Who knew that, when her parents had played a childhood game, “Name That Tune” with Broadway musicals, Gilana was tapping into her future? As a high school student she performed with Muskegon Civic Theatre Children’s Repertory Touring Company and she 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. Coupling her experiences and her fascination with history, Gilana intensified her study the Holocaust. Already at age 13, she had been selected by Channel One to report on Auschwitz as a descendant of holocaust survivors. Her family’s history has been archived at the Muskegon County Museum, and 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.
Gilana had reason to be proud of her heritage, and she retained close ties with her family. Twice a year, they traveled back to Los Angeles to visit relatives, and they took trips to France and Israel to visit other relatives. Gilana 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 conversationalist. Gilana never did anything half-way; she was passionate about whatever she did.
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. Her desire to help led Gilana to consider a master’s degree in 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 was cat sitting for a friend at his apartment. This friend became concerned about her while trying to reach her. During the same time frame, her friends and co-workers were also becoming alarmed because she did not show up for work. The inability to communicate or reach Gilana was very unusual. With this thought in mind, her friend that she was pet sitting for contacted his land lord and asked him to go check on things. Sadly, on Thursday, November 1st, Gilana was found by the landlord in her friends apartment. Doctors and family members theorize that a series of strokes caused her to fall in the apartment, and she sustained a serious head injury. Gilana never regained consciousness and passed away on Sunday.
Gilana Shira was a passionate and caring person who will be greatly missed by her adoring family, cherished friends, and grateful community.
Gilana Shira Alpert, age 26, formerly of Muskegon, died November 4, 2007 in Chicago, IL. She is survived by her parents, Rabbi Alan and Anna Alpert; sister Aleza Alpert; brother David Alpert. A funeral service will be held Sunday, November 11, 2007, 4:30 PM at Frauenthal Theater. Memorial gifts may be made to Gilana Shira Alpert Fund at The Community Foundation for Muskegon County or the Gilana Garden Fund at Temple B’nai Israel. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory or sign the online guest book. The family has been served by Clock Life Story Funeral Home in Muskegon.