Lacey Michele Foundation
Location & Hours
Tucked away in a remote corner of northwest Boone County, Shelby Ravellette spends much of his time laying rocks. Some are ones he can handle easily. Some are so big it requires a front-end loader to lift. He pieces them together carefully, making sure each stone fits in its place At the front of the building is an extra-thick chimney for a large fireplace that will generate heat. The walls are two-feet thick as he guides a visitor through the structure. Standing atop one turret, he proudly shows the brilliant view of turning fall foliage and a pond where wild creatures come for water — the kind of place where man actually seems to be the intruder.
“It’s all for Lacey,” he said, but that takes some explanation.
Ravellette was born in Poplar Bluff, Mo, in 1954. He and his family moved around some, but he got the majority of his education in the Midwest.
He went into the real estate business with his father and brother, buying and selling property. He was busy on his way to making his first million dollars, he says, and didn’t have time for children.
They bought a piece of property in Pine Bluff and opened a bowling alley. While there, he was again buying houses, remodeling them and reselling them for a profit, still working his way toward the financial goal.
Then, one day, he was walking out of a store when he saw a woman carrying a toddler. He said the girl looked at him as they passed and immediately started trying to crawl over the woman’s shoulder when their eyes met in an attempt to get to him.
He was trying to figure out what the problem was when the woman turned around and Ravellette recognized her as one of his former girlfriend’s mother.
He discovered that the girl was his biological child. Lacey Michelle was born May 7, 1979.
Ravellette said Lacey had his characteristic red, flowing hair and the two immediately bonded, leaving him no way to deny her heredity.
So, although he and Lacey’s mother, Debbie, never married, he took complete financial responsibility for the child and spent time with her as often as he could.
One night, Lacey got sick. She had flu-like symptoms and Debbie took her to the emergency room. There, she was given medication that is quite normally safe.
After the first dose of medicine, Lacey began to develop headaches. That didn’t cause any immediate alarm, especially because she already had flu-like symptoms.
But after a few more doses, something was obviously wrong. Within hours she had suffered an apparent toxic reaction to the medication and her brain began to swell.
Lacey died in January 1987.
Ravellette fell into a depression, and regrets set in. He said he’d been spending so much time trying to develop a financial base for Lacey that he hadn't spent as much time with her as he could.
“When she passed away I had the money, but no daughter,” he said, his eyes filling with tears.
Ravellette’s depression deepened, and he was even contemplating suicide. He said he felt as if there was nothing for him to do in life after Lacey’s death.
He maintains that Lacey came to him in a vision one night. He said Lacey had dreamed of living in a castle and he had promised to build her one. In that vision, Lacey told him to follow up on his promise and build her castle.
So, he set about looking for property. While in the Ozarks for a float trip on the Buffalo River, he was reading the Harrison Daily Times and ran across an ad for property in Boone County.He contacted the realtor and they looked at a couple of tracts. but when he saw the topographic map of the property he now owns, he felt something.
He saw the close-together lines and realized that meant it was steep. That also meant there would be lots of rock available for castle walls.
He bought that property in 1988. He survived the first winter in what he calls a shack, and then set about building a castle.
Now the structure is taking a definite shape. Ravellette had learned about conservation of resources in school, so he uses water captured in large containers to water flower and vegetable gardens.
In fact, he said that when he dies the entire property is to be turned over to become a park of sorts, dedicated to natural, soil and water conservation and wildlife preservation.
“It will revert to a charity foundation for Lacey Michelle,” he said.
Walking along the walls of the castle, Ravellette points out various highlights of construction, making mental notes of things to get accomplished that day.
He stops and holds out his arms.
“It’s all for Lacey,” he says. “This is her legacy.”
Story Written By James L. White of the Harrison Daily Times
"Copyright Harrison Daily Times.