“Sunshine” Shelly Monahan called it quits Friday at the end of KHQ’s early morning newscast, putting a wrap – for now, at least – on nearly 40 years in broadcasting, many of them in her hometown.
For almost 14 years Monahan has been the morning face of local news in the station’s 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. time slot, a bright-eyed newscaster to bleary-eyed parents getting kids ready for school and harried commuters getting ready for work.
“It’s a blast doing morning television, to be one of the first things a viewer checks out in the morning,” she said. Not such a blast: Getting up by 2 a.m. to get to the studio, which means going to bed in the early evening or being sleep deprived the next day.
Longtime Spokane residents who don’t get up that early – or who don’t turn on the television first thing – might remember Monahan as the weather reporter at KREM-TV in the early 1980s. Even older residents might remember her as Sunshine Shelly, the night disc jockey on KJRB in the late 1970s, where she offered music and patter she called “sunshine in the nighttime” starting at age 17.
Although she left radio for television more than 30 years ago, people in Spokane have long memories. “Every day, somebody calls me Sunshine Shelly,” she said.
Many Spokane residents also remember that Monahan was one of the notorious South Hill rapist’s victims, attacked when she was leaving the station after a shift one night. It’s something that came up regularly as Kevin Coe, who was convicted of another one of those rapes, was tried and then retried, sentenced and later ordered held as a sexually violent predator in a 2008 civil commitment trial.
Monahan vowed to be a survivor, not a victim. She testified at that commitment trial that Coe once called her from prison and threatened to kill her when he got out. She also got numerous letters, calls and emails of support. She said she’d pray for Coe, who could spend the rest of his life incarcerated, but she thought it was time to close that chapter and move on.
Monahan has moved on a few times. She moved from Spokane in 1986 after her fiancé, mountain climber Kim Momb, died in an avalanche. She went first to Sacramento, then to Seattle and eventually Chicago. But even while she was doing weather in those cities, Sunshine Shelly was still a presence on Spokane television, pitching cars for a local dealer.
After three years working in Chicago, Monahan moved back to Spokane for a chair at the early morning desk at KHQ, which had the top show in that time slot and still does. (The station is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns the company that publishes The Spokesman-Review.) It allowed her to be home in the afternoon when her children’s school day ended, go to their sports events and cook dinner. One of the things Monahan said she liked best about the morning time slot was the chance to go out and meet people after the show was over or connect with them through social media. Her KHQ Facebook page has about 15,000 friends.
About seven years ago, the station teamed up with Craven’s Coffee to deliver coffee and treats to local charities and nonprofits. Monahan and Simon Craven Thompson, founder of the coffee roasting company, made the monthly deliveries.
Thompson quickly discovered Monahan was “instantly recognizable and beloved.” Invariably someone at an office where coffee and treats were being delivered would mention listening to Sunshine Shelly on the radio.
“The person you see on air is the person you see when the camera is not on,” Thompson said. “It’s not an act. She has the Spokane community in her DNA.”
Now 55, Monahan is moving on from television, in what she calls a mutual decision between her and the station. She and husband Steve Cain are “empty nesters,” with the youngest of their four children in college. They’d had conversations about what she would do “after television,” and she plans to study for the real estate exam and join Cain as a Realtor.
But she won’t rule out the possibility of coming back on the air, on radio if not on television, at some future date. Television anchors typically have a non-compete clause in their contract that keeps them from going to work at another station in the city for at least six months, so any talk of future broadcasting prospects will have to wait. In the meantime, though, Monahan has a fairly simple goal.
“I’m looking forward to being able to sleep in.”