1919 ~ 2015
Shirley Ann Brockbank Paxman was born third child to Isaac and Elsie Booth Brockbank and grew up with her eight sisters at 59 West 500 North in Provo. She debuted on December 10, 1919 and died in her sleep on December 17, a week after her 96th birthday. She married Monroe J. Paxman on December 18, 1942 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They have lived in Wichita, Kansas; Salt Lake City; Reno, Nevada; Urbana, Illinois; Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany; Izmir, Turkey; Frankfurt, Germany; and Provo, where they spent most of their life together.
Shirley was a registered nurse, an avid reader, a community organizer, a school board president, a traveler, a museum director, and she lived exuberantly. She once stood in front of a moving bulldozer to block it from demolishing Provo's Academy Square because she knew funding was on its way to save the building. Born with an abundance of energy and creative ideas, she always had a project or a cause. She enjoyed hosting gatherings and parties, creating magical experiences, writing books, working in historic preservation, giving speeches, and sharing her opinions. She was unconventional and ready to speak out, a strong, enthusiastic feminist, a mentor, and an advocate for the underprivileged.
She trained at Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City before her marriage and grew to love the Catholic sisters and the rosary. Her religious involvement was ecumenical. She served well all her life in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but sometimes referred to herself as Catholic Mormon and was involved with the Episcopal Church as well. She found God and truth in many places. Through it all, she expressed her love for and faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She drew on traditions from diverse religions and cultures as she and her husband Monroe raised their seven children. She celebrated holidays with gusto, created costumes, baked and decorated thousands of sugar cookies, belonged to various social clubs and historical societies, and included many people in her entertaining.
Shirley lived by Gibran's words, "Work is love made visible." Her compassionate heart fueled her personal and civic service. She worked to make things better for people she cared about, whether they were family, immigrants, foreign diplomats, college students, or merely lonely. It was no small thing if Shirley was in your corner; her support was palpable. She and Pax loved to welcome people to their family cabin at Wildwood, let them use the inner tubes, swing on the swings, lie in the hammock, or play in the water, and Shirley cooked abundant meals to feed them. She hosted speakers and musical programs for groups of friends. She and Monroe served on several local and university advisory boards.
Shirley frequently laughed at the humor in life and was a good storyteller; she was no stranger to hyperbole and often exaggerated her children's good qualities and accomplishments. She was also a master of typographical errors in her weekly family letters. She and Pax have been generous grandparents who took care of kids with aplomb and enjoyment. Wet feet and dirty hands weren't worth worrying about; craft projects, hammering nails into wood, hiking, and imaginative play were encouraged.
A capable woman of many talents, Shirley sewed, knitted, sketched, decorated, and quilted; she refinished furniture and collected antiques as well as Noah's arks, nativities, Santa Clauses, family traditions, ideas, articles, and books. She and Pax hiked for decades and co-authored a Utah Valley hiking guide. Lifelong supporters of the arts, they attended concerts, lectures, and plays regularly until Shirley fell and broke two vertebrae three weeks before her death. As her short term memory faded, one of her most common statements was, "We count our blessings." Her next line was always, "I still have my husband!" A few years ago she said, "I have very few regrets. I've had stability, excitement--a fantastic life." We love our mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and her passion for life will continue to inspire us.
Preceding Shirley in death were her sisters Ila Peterson, Helen Weech, Elinor Brimhall, Pat Fillmore, Kay Webber, her daughter Mary Beth McGee, and her grandson David Thomas. She is survived by her dream-facilitating husband Monroe, her sisters Carol Olson, Nancy Livingston, Joyce Beazer, and her children John and Petrina Lee Poy Paxman (Montreal), Carolyn and Marion T. Bentley (Logan), David and Kathryn Pope Hoopes Paxman (Mapleton), Nancy and Peter Thomas (Sun Valley), Annette and Scott Bowen (Seattle), and Susie and David Hatch (Chicago) as well as by numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Visitation will be held Monday, December 21 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Berg Mortuary, 185 East Center Street, Provo, and Tuesday, December 22 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Provo Peak Third Ward, 510 East 200 North, Provo. The funeral will begin Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. at the same church. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Monroe and Shirley Paxman Humanitarian Scholarship or the Mary Paxman McGee Endowed Scholarship at Utah Valley University https://www.donate.supportuvu.org/paxman
or to the Brockbank Education Fund (supporting young women in South Africa; befcharity.org