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Loved ones recall mass shooting victim’s true, Dodger blue spirit

The sky turned pink by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, but people arriving at the Las Vegas Golf Club wore Dodger blue.

They came to remember Laura Shipp, a 50-year-old single mother and die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan who was one of the 58 killed Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Strip.

Weeks ago, family and friends celebrated Shipp’s life in Westlake Village, California, near her hometown in Thousand Oaks. Wednesday night, they gathered in Las Vegas.

“By far, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in our lives,” said her one-year-older sister, Tracy Shipp. “Our city’s just been stabbed.”

The life celebration’s attendees ate fare fit for a Dodgers baseball game: hot dogs, hamburgers, beans, potato salad. White lights decorated the perimeter of the venue Wednesday; pictures showed Laura Shipp smiling with her son, friends and kin.

Her son, Corey Shipp, a Marine reservist, wore a Dodgers-inspired shirt with a photo of Laura Shipp and “67” on the front, the year she was born.

“She was my mom, my dad and my big sister growing up,” he said. “I’m not good at putting it into words.”

Daren Libonati went to Thousand Oaks High School with Laura Shipp in California. In Las Vegas, he is a producer for the Route 91 Harvest and other music festivals.

On Wednesday, Libonati recalled how, weeks before the concert, Laura Shipp had reached out to him on Facebook. She’d been duped into buying fake Route 91 Harvest tickets but still wanted to go.

“The most important thing for me is to get to this Route 91,” she told him. “But more importantly, I want to have my son with me, and I want to have this experience.”

So he got her some tickets, put them in a card and drew a smiley face. On Sept. 29, they got together in Las Vegas. She was so excited, he said, and wanted to introduce Corey, who’d also graduated from Thousand Oaks High.

“I was able to give a wonderful moment of truth to my friend and her family,” he said. “That smile was real, and it was as big as day when she hugged and kissed me and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I remember you. Let’s have a fun weekend.’”

Libonati said the shooting was a tragedy no one could prepare for.

“We’re gonna build that thing again, and we’re going to create something special again,” he said of the Route 91 Harvest festival. “For people to go and enjoy that moment.”

Tony Fetcho was dating Laura Shipp, whom he’d known for 14 months and had worked with at Sierra LLC Air Conditioning. The couple were with Corey at the festival Oct. 1.

She was on her way to the bathroom when the shots rang out, Fetcho said. He took cover behind a barricade. Fetcho thought his girlfriend might have found her way out. He didn’t find out until a few days later that she had died.

“She lived life to the fullest. She had a personality that would light up the whole room,” he said. “She broadened my horizons in many aspects of life.”

Wednesday’s celebration of life was coordinated largely by Corey Shipp’s friends at Chili’s on Rainbow Boulevard, where he works when he’s not with the Marines. His manager, Chris Atkinson, started the GoFundMe account for the family after the shooting.

“If you know Corey, you don’t have a choice. You get to meet Laura,” he said. “That’s just a testament to how close they were.”

‘The Mother Shipp’

On Wednesday, Danny Perez, a bartender there, shared some stories about the woman he called “the Mother Shipp.”

She drank tequila and was always hanging out at the same seat at the bar, watching the Dodgers. The restaurant’s servers gravitated toward her personality and energy. She was good at poker and could hold her ground in an argument.

“Laura was one of those special people,” Perez said.

Laura’s father, Joe Shipp, said he had to brace himself for Wednesday’s celebration. He knew it would be emotional.

“It’s a tribute to my daughter,” he said. “Every once in a while, I’m finding myself calling out her name like I normally do, realizing she’s not there.”

On Wednesday, Laura’s mother, Joyce Shipp, described her daughters as “two peas in a pod.” She said she was overwhelmed by the kindness of family, friends and even strangers.

“I don’t think it’s totally hit me, but it will,” she said. “When it all ends, and I’m alone.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.

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