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Shirley Ann Kinsel, wife, mother, and teacher, passed away quietly on April 30, just a handful of days after celebrating her 82nd birthday.
She was born Shirley Ann Wear and lived her entire childhood in Friend, Nebraska, a small town west of Lincoln. Her father was a postman who also ran a family farm. There, Shirley developed a love for horses. When she was a young teen, her father bought her a yearling filly. Shirley and her horse could often be found about town, delivering their farm's dairy products and homemade jam. She taught her dog to climb trees and ice-skated to school on wintry days.
Shirley was an excellent student and was valedictorian of her high school. She received her Bachelor's degree in English literature and Education from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. During her college years, both in Nebraska and later in Washington, she treasured the opportunity to meet famous poets of the day, including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Ogden Nash.
Shirley met Bill Kinsel, the love of her life, in high school. They were married in December of 1953, when Shirley was a senior in college and Bill was on leave from the army. Shirley graduated and started teaching school in Raymond, a small Nebraska town, while Bill attended college.
In 1958, they moved to Seattle, Washington where Bill worked for Boeing and completed a Master's degree in Engineering. Shirley split her time between caring for their children and attending poetry classes at the University of Washington. Studying under poet Theodore Roethke was one of the highlights of her time at the UW.
They returned to Nebraska in 1963, where Bill worked on his PhD and Shirley focused on the children. In 1966, they moved to Richland, Washington. With the children, she shared the magic of books, cooking, sewing and scouting. She and Bill spent several summer vacations teaching at an Arts and Sciences camp in Joseph, Oregon. Shirley taught poetry classes and Bill taught bridge building.
For years, Shirley dreamed of living on a farm. In 1971, Bill and Shirley bought an irrigated hay farm. Over the years, they had horses, collie dogs, chickens, ducks and a herd of cattle. The cows quickly became the focus of the farm. Shirley made sure that every cow had an interesting name, integrating her literary knowledge into her farm life.
When the children started going away to college, Shirley returned to school to receive a Master's Degree in Education, training her to be a reading specialist. She went on to teach at Pasco High School for many years. She was fascinated with the diverse cultures teaching English as a Second Language classes. She began developing ways to teach the classics to students of all abilities. It amazed her students when their grey-haired teacher would come limping into school after wrestling cattle or wiping out on her dirt bike.
She taught 3rd grade Sunday school at Central United Protestant Church for over 30 years. When failing health forced her to move to an assisted living facility, Shirley helped lead Bible study groups for as long as she was able.
Bill and Shirley had a long, loving relationship. They had been married 59 years when Bill passed away last July. Shirley is succeeded by her children Linda, Laura, Mark, and Carol and by her grandchildren James, Ryan, Susie, Miranda, and Kimly.
A memorial service will be held at 2 pm on Sunday, May 25 at the Shilo Inn in Richland. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to donorschoose.org or Heifer International.
Published in Tri-City Herald on May 24, 2014