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Norman community honors Cookie Cottage owner's life with candlelight vigil

Candlelight vigil for Shannon Hanchett

Participants listening to speakers share memories of Shannon Hanchett during the vigil honoring her life on Dec. 12. 

Recounting stories humorous, sad, joyful and melancholy, Norman community members gathered for a vigil Monday night to remember Shannon Hanchett. 

By Recess Taco Parks and the Okie Baking Co.’s Cookie Cottage on Main Street, the vigil honored Hanchett, a fourth-generation Oklahoman. Hanchett was an advocate and business owner in the Norman community.

Known popularly as the “Cookie Queen,” Hanchett was the owner of Okie Baking Co., which she founded in 2018. She had worked in the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for more than a decade before leaving to pursue a long-held dream of a bakery business. 

Hanchett was found unconscious and not breathing in her cell in the Cleveland County Jail on Dec. 8 following a welfare check and subsequent arrest by the Norman Police Department on Nov. 26 for calling 911 with a false alarm and obstructing an officer. 

Throughout the vigil, friends and family spoke about Hanchett’s impact on their lives and Norman.

Aglaia Biagi, a friend of Hanchett, said they related to Hanchett through similar struggles with diseases like fibromyalgia and lupus. Biagi talked about how they found friendship and each other through their shared pain.

“It's unbelievable,” Biagi said. “She will live in the hearts of all of us forever and ever.” 

Stories continued throughout the night as people shared their candlelight flames, lighting the wicks of other members as they arrived.

Gabriel Bird, a dentist who practices next to the Cookie Cottage, told humorous stories of Hanchett like when she would trick him into tasting new recipes or when her Christmas decorations were stolen. 

“You guys successfully loved on her,” Bird said. “She knew she was loved.”

Tissues were passed throughout the crowd as people laughed and cried over memories, passing the microphone so everyone could talk. 

Even younger voices came forward to speak. 

“I love you Shannon,” said 6-year-old Ellie Norman.

Oklahoma Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) spoke about Hanchett’s advocacy for 2SLGBTQ+ rights in Norman. He and Hanchett’s efforts were both motivated by their children, who are both members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

“I would hope that you can take from this night that mental health issues just don’t stop — it's continuous,” Rosecrants said.

 

Community members also expressed confusion and anger toward the circumstances surrounding Hanchett’s death.

A ​​joint investigation by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is underway to determine the cause and manner of death. 

“I hope that they get to the bottom of what really happened,” Debbie Burleson said. “I mean, why was she in there? Ten days for a misdemeanor offense? … There is a need for people to patrol and check on mental well-being.

Lee Hall, a former Ward 4 Norman city council member, said she hopes Hanchett’s death will continue necessary conversation about how mental health crises are addressed. She said she hopes people in Norman will look at this incident and see the need for a Mental Health Response Team or Crisis Response team in the community. 

“Police should not be the first contact with somebody that has any kind of mental health (issues) and certainly they shouldn't be housed in jail,” Rosecrants said. “I think that's the message we want to bring out, make sure that we can do better.”

People celebrated Hanchett's spirit throughout the night.

“Shannon was such a bright light,” Hall said. “She was a bright light and thing for every single person here and so many people that probably weren't able to come tonight.”

The night concluded with community members placing stones in front of the Cookie Cottage to show their love and support of Hanchett.

Hanchett’s celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Havenbrook Funeral Home. Condolences can be shared on the funeral home’s website, and flowers can be sent to her family on its tribute store.

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