Shirley Annette Sager was accepted into the arms of the Lord on Dec. 6, 2013, as she passed away peacefully with her husband, Bill, and her family close at her side. Shirley's death followed an unexpected stroke she suffered on Nov. 26, 2013.
Shirley was born Sept. 20, 1938, in Laramie, Wyoming, and moved to Fairbanks with her parents, Chet and Martha Jackson, and brother, Jack, in 1951. She attended the old Main School and graduated in 1957 from Lathrop High School. During her high school years, Shirley met the love of her life, Bill Sager. Bill and Shirley married in 1959 at Immaculate Conception Church, where they remained devoted parishioners for more than 40 years.
Shirley and Bill had six children, and Shirley became an integral part of the network of families who nurtured Immaculate Conception Grade School and Monroe High School with her ongoing support of school activities and the ever-important fund raisers that formed the Catholic schools' strong foundation and helped assure their continued operation.
Shirley was a volunteer parent for the first HIPOW auction for the Monroe Foundation in 1970 and continued with the effort each year for the next two decades. She, along with many committed families, helped build and fine tune the "engine" that drives the fundraiser, which generates the largest portion of the schools' annual revenue and endures as a landmark social event in Fairbanks.
Shirley spent her summers at the family's Richardson Clearwater cabins, where she resided with the kids and her folks while Bill worked in Fairbanks. Bill's Saturday night arrivals were greeted with Shirley's lively stories of the past week's adventures, from knuckles blistered on the washboard to an endless supply of kids' cuts and bruises to dogs with faces full of porcupine quills. Perhaps the most memorable Clearwater event was the sight of a raw black bear hide that greeted Bill on his arrival one Saturday night. Earlier that week, Shirley killed the menacing bear with a single shot between the eyes from the cabin rooftop while the kids held their breath with faces plastered to the windows. Through Shirley's courage, endurance and love of the Clearwater, she shared the family bonds and outdoor traditions with her parents, husband, children, grandchildren, extended family and many friends that are treasured to this day.
As the Sager kids left the nest one by one, Shirley continued to fulfill her strong desire for volunteer work, offering her auction skills and experience from HIPOW to the Alaska Outdoor Council and its sister organization, the Alaska Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund. Through this effort, Shirley helped build another successful annual fundraiser that for many years has fueled much of the operating budget for the largest hunting, fishing, trapping and outdoor access organization in Alaska. This Fairbanks-based banquet and auction remains the group's largest and most lucrative one-day fundraiser in the state, thanks in large part to Shirley's tireless enthusiasm and dedication to a way of life she and Bill loved, taught and celebrated with family and friends alike.
Shirley and Bill honeymooned and enjoyed many vacations in Hawaii throughout their life, where they indulged in sandy beaches, golfing and the laid-back island life. They rarely missed an annual visit to this favorite paradise during their 54 years together. After Shirley's folks retired to Mesa, Ariz., Bill and Shirley visited them on occasion and soon grew fond of the desert Southwest's warm climate, which offered a nice break from the frigid Fairbanks winters. Shortly after Bill retired from Chandler Plumbing in 2004, he and Shirley became "snowbirds," spending winters in Mesa, and the spring, summer and fall months at their place on the Clearwater. Between the milder winters outside and the tranquil summers at the cabin, Shirley continued to delight in her many good friends and family, drew spiritual strength from her Catholic faith and treasured her final years with Bill, where she remained ever present at his side until her passing.
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents, Chet and Martha Jackson, of Mesa Ariz.; brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Marion Jackson of Central; mother-in-law and father-in-law, Gene and Hettie Sager, of Fairbanks; and son-in-law, Darryl Claxton, of North Pole. Shirley is survived by her husband, Bill, of the Richardson Clearwater and Mesa, Ariz.; daughter and son-in-law, Toni and Dave Claxton, and grandchildren, Matt and Jennifer Claxton, of Fairbanks; daughter and son-in-law, Tracy and Ted Morphis, of Fairbanks, grandson, Dustin Wilson and great-grandson, Cayden, of Mesa, Ariz., and granddaughter, Tiffany (and Tommy) Arguelles, of Phoenix, Ariz.; daughter and son-in-law, Teresa and Bill Albaugh, of the Tok Cutoff; son and daughter-in-law, Gene and Krista Sager, and grandchildren, Jordyn, Jenna and Evan Sager, of Fairbanks; son, Brant Sager, of Fairbanks; daughter and son-in-law, Martha "Marty" and Bob Oxnard, and grandchildren, Sage, River and Silas Oxnard, of Fairbanks; nephew, Kirk (and Thursha) Jackson, and great nephews, Jake and Garrett Jackson, of Fairbanks; and niece, Kim (and Bill) Steik, and great nephew, Ian Steik, of Ninilchik.
A funeral mass will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 3 at Immaculate Conception Church, 115 N. Cushman St. in Fairbanks; a reception will follow from 3-5 p.m at the Mechanical Contractors of Fairbanks Hall, 1840 2nd Ave.
Correspondence for Bill (and family) may be sent to 621 S. 77th St., Mesa, AZ 85208.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in remembrance of Shirley may be considered to the following (please enter Shirley Sager on check memo line):
Monroe Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 71620, Fairbanks, AK 99707-1620
Alaska Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, 310 K Street, Anchorage, AK 99501
Hospice of the Valley, East Mesa PCU, 6063 E. Arbor Drive, Bldg. 3, Mesa, AZ 85206.