You would be a fool to confuse her unmistakable grace and empathy for softness or complacency. Michelle Marie (Gruener) Insco was perceived as an angel among us, to be sure. But those of us who were blessed to truly know her or who ever tried to play a sport against her, learned she possessed a competitive fire, dogged determination and focus that enabled her to impact people far and wide… and many she never even met.
Born March 17th, 1970, her confidence was deeply rooted from the nurturing of parents Ed (dad) & Teddy Gruener and Mary Anne (mom) & Randy Howe. It was also from finding her place within 8 siblings… who often chided “Shelli” for being “the favorite.”
Her education at Assumption Parish School, Cor Jesu Academy and Truman State was the impetus for building lifelong friendships and prepared her for success in multiple industries.
She was a super star meeting planner for Maritz Travel in St. Louis before rising to leadership positions with KPMG in the New York City area, ultimately leading special projects in the office of KPMG’s Chairman.
After several years in NYC, she and her husband Jeff Insco, chose to move back to her hometown to raise a family… that soon added Ryan Gregory (19) and Andrew Jeffrey (17).
After a few years back in STL, she made a career change, jumping into the exciting and stressful biotech start-up world by joining Divergence, LLC – a science company working on solutions to world hunger. As one of the few “carpet people” (non-scientist business professionals), she helped grow the company and co-led its sale to Monsanto.
With that acquisition the global ag leader also gained a multi-talented change agent who went on to be the Sr. Program Officer of Monsanto’s (and later Bayer’s) philanthropic arm of the company, focusing much of her effort on supporting education in rural and underserved communities. She was recently awarded the FFA Honorary American Degree for her commitment to education… proof of how her philanthropic work touched so many families through her “dream job.”
Here’s the thing… during a good portion of this time, she was also battling stage 4 colon cancer that included multiple major surgeries, numerous radiation treatments and more than 180 chemotherapy treatments plus a clinical trial in Nashville over the course of 8 years. But it didn’t slow her down.
She once said, “My life is perfect, I just happen to have cancer.”
This summed up the spirit of our amazing, Shelli.
She inspired hundreds (maybe more) battling the disease. She was a featured speaker at the Colon Cancer Alliance fundraiser, Undy 5000, and was honored to receive the Medal of Hope from cancer support organization, Powered By Hope.
Combining her passion for philanthropy and battling cancer, she helped the American Cancer Society acquire a major gift from Bayer for the Hope Lodge initiative. For that, they’ve honored her with the “Hope Is Home” Key that will reside in the lobby of the new Hope Lodge in St. Louis.
She was easy to be with and got important things done… without fuss. She had an indelible impact on her sons with phrases like “decide what to be and go be it” (one of her favorite song lyrics from The Avett Brothers). She was a baseball mom, basketball mom, soccer mom and ultimate frisbee mom… among many other mom roles.
Probably the most fitting description of her essence is captured in yet another lyric from The Avett’s… “always remember there’s nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.”
We might not all have shared her name, but those who did along with friends, colleagues and those she inspired all feel like her family nonetheless. And we will miss her deeply.
Shelli moved on to heavenly peace as the angel we’ve always known on July 13th, 2020. In keeping with the compassion with which she lived, she chose to donate her body to science to help others.
There is an open house celebration of her life from 6-10pm on August 1st, 2020 at Tapawingo Country Club. Due to COVID restrictions and to help the family prepare, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org . More details can be found by clicking here.
In lieu of flowers, contributions are encouraged to the foundation that her surviving husband and sons have formed. The 3/17 Foundation for Colon Cancer Support will raise and distribute funds for colon cancer research and families needing assistance that are battling the disease.
As her son Ryan says, “she didn’t lose her battle with cancer, it may have taken her body but will never take her spirit.”
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Michelle Marie (Gruener) Insco, please visit our floral store.