Written By Heather Campbell | Photos By Tori Steyne Photography
Erin Elizabeth Shealy Melton was born in Newberry on April Fool’s Day in 1985. She is granddaughter to Betty Ann Smith, daughter to Sharon, sister to Brittany and Shann, mother to Shanya and Cameron (Kirby), niece to Terrance Smith Jr, and she has a bunch of nieces and nephews. I met her in 2011 when I started working 911 dispatch in Newberry County. She was so mean to me! She says now that “I was being initiated” (insert eye roll), but she was actually the sweetest person I’d ever met. We’ve lived together, raised our kids together, laughed, cried, and traveled together. She is the most sincere person I’ve ever known.
When she told me about this opportunity to be featured in the magazine as herself, she was ecstatic. Erin is practically a Newberry staple; she loves this town. She’s a Mid-Carolina and Piedmont Tech graduate. Her kids have played every sport the rec offers. She’s attended almost every function the town has. She has been a Girl Scout leader and started a book club at the library. She’s volunteered at every school her kids attended and worked on the committee for the Juneteenth celebrations. She is a member of Newberry Made, a family of artists in the city. Her home is filled with sweet scents from Purposely Scented. She’s learned to hold her head higher, as a model with Next Level Models with Michael Raiford. She will be forever grateful for the love and support she’s received from Sean and Christy Pomeroy of Half Full. The skirt she’s wearing, made by her, was made using fabric purchased from Quilt Werks in downtown Newberry. She’s an insurance agent at Comalander Insurance (formerly Nationwide) in Newberry. Taking care and learning from the people of the city is what she does.
She performed at the Ritz in the Rocky Horror Picture Show 6 years in a row, and she was even married in the theater! She breathes Newberry.
The day of the photoshoot, she called and asked “Why me? I’m pretty awesome, but not a magazine cover awesome.” I told her she deserved to be on every cover of every magazine. She slowly and reluctantly agreed. The beauty and magnetism of Erin is that she doesn’t know that she’s changing lives. She doesn’t think, “I’ll go to talk to this stranger and improve their day,” or “I’ll attend this event and make a statement.” She talks to them because they’re wearing a rainbow or she’ll go because there’s a band and she wants to dance. She radiates a warmth that people gravitate towards. She doesn’t think that’s noteworthy. She’s just living and being herself. And that’s what it is, that’s what touches people.
Her love for her kids is unmatched. There isn’t anything she would not do for them. She would work 12 hour night shifts and still never miss a game or school program. She always has encouraged them to go and be exactly who they are and to never apologize for who they want to be. They call her ‘Erin’ instead of Mama, as she says it’s one of the first words either of them ever spoke. It’s a reminder that she is still herself while being their mom. But she is NOT their friend, much to Shanya’s dismay. I asked them what they wanted to say about her.
Cameron, age 15, says: “My mom, Erin, isn’t just an amazing mom but a great person. She may not have been the brightest star at the start, but has begun to shine brighter than anyone else.”
Shanya, age 19, says: “Erin is always finding the light and the goodness in people and situations. She is always a ball of energy and light, like a walking rainbow. I think more people need to be like Erin, but they’re not because she is a one-of-a-kind person. She is a walking aura.”
She started her company, Eureka’s Closet, after the passing of her husband, James Melton. And if you knew James, you loved James. He was ALMOST as charismatic as Erin. Their marriage was filled with adventures, love, laughter, and cancer. Everyone has a tragic cancer story, but this is not one of them. They fought an incredible battle against it (no one fights alone). He used to confide in me the guilt he felt for putting her through it. He eventually saved her by leaving. He took the cancer away from her and gave her the opportunity to continue living. I’ve had a few “I told you so” conversations with her about this and I’m sure I’ll have 100 more. Our Erin is a ball of sunshine, a bursting of energy, and a hurricane of light and laughter. But she isn’t immune to grief or loss, and seeing her grow through it has been inspiring.
Eureka’s Closet was created as an extension of herself. She loves thrift shopping and is surprisingly good at it. She can find the most unique pieces; they just appear to her. She wants to share that experience with everyone. She lives her life in bold colors, striking patterns, and so many dresses. She would wear a dress every day of her life, if she could. So, it was a natural transition to sewing and creating looks only she could imagine. Every piece she makes she says, “This is the best thing I’ve ever made!” Every. Single. Time. I know that Eureka’s Closet will become a household name. She just knows that she’s having fun.
And if you know Erin, you know that’s just how she is and if you don’t know her, you should. She is always ready for a hug; she is perpetually singing and signing. She’s a whirlwind of whimsy you just want to get caught in. She’s nothing less than pure magic.