Shirley Gay, 87, passed away peacefully Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, at Spectrum Health Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, holding the hands of her loved ones and succumbing to renal failure.
Shirley joins her loving husband of 45 years, Wayne, who preceded her in death in November.
Shirley was born Aug. 31, 1934, in Lenoir City, Tenn., during the height of the Depression.
Seeking better employment, her parents, George and Pat Hensley, moved the family to Michigan. Shirley graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1953, and was a proud alum who looked forward to attending every reunion.
She soon began working as an operator for Michigan Bell Telephone Co.
She married her first husband, James "Jim" Albert Murphy, in August 1959. After Jim became blind from diabetes, Shirley supported the family in an era when most women stopped working after marriage. Shirley was widowed in 1974, when Jim died at 41 from a heart attack.
She married Wayne Gay on Oct. 11, 1975, and gained two wonderful stepdaughters, Tracy and Holly Gay.
Shirley retired as an installation order clerk on Dec. 2, 1983, after 30 years of loyal service. Shirley served as a secretary in the Pioneers, and stayed active with the organization.
Shirley had a beautiful life on Shafer Lake in Hartford for more than 50 years. She enjoyed planting flowers, watching the birds and taking pontoon rides. She loved entertaining her family, and made each holiday and birthday a joyous and special event overflowing with favorite foods and treasured gifts.
Shirley cherished celebrating Christmas with her family, decorating the tree with a keepsake travelogue of ornaments collected on her numerous trips with Wayne. Her generosity was evident in the abundance of gifts for her children through great-grandchildren, and to the many charities she faithfully supported, including the St. Joseph's Indian School and Boys Town.
Shirley will be missed every day by her family: siblings, Peggy Mohn and Michael Hensley; children, Laurie and Kevin Murphy, Holly and Tracy Gay; grandchildren, whose lives she poured her love into, Thor, Sasha and Trevor Murphy, Paddy and Seamus Bartlett; and her nine beautiful great-grandchildren.
The family will celebrate Shirley's life from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Oct. 23 at Duffield & Pastrick Funeral Home, 6548 Paw Paw Ave., Coloma, by sharing some of her favorite photos and music.
A service will be from noon-1 p.m., with family sharing their favorite memories of Shirley. Burial will follow in Watervliet City Cemetery.
To leave a message for the family online, visit www.duffieldpastrick.com.