June 29, 1972 - Nov. 4, 2021
Shirley Elizabeth Gibson made the world a better place. In the words of her husband, she knew that the secret to happiness was in making other people happy, and she was throughout her life a thoughtful, caring, compassionate person who put others always before herself. And she did it with a wicked sense of humor.
She was a smart, dedicated attorney who would wear Wonder Woman Converse high-tops to the office where she fought against displacement and for fair and affordable housing for low-income tenants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Mateo County.
She was a loving mother to her two children, Georgia and Milo, and a devoted wife to her husband, Tim Pori, a criminal defense attorney.
She was an outgoing, friendly person her entire life, someone with exceptional compassion for everyone around her, an attitude directly reflected in her career, church involvement and personal interactions.
Shirley bravely fought through recurring cancer for 11 years without complaint or fear of death, all the while continuing to extend her kindness, energy and dedication to the people and causes she cared about to the very end. She died peacefully on Nov. 4, 2021, at her home, surrounded by her family. She was 49.
Shirley was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1972. Raised by parents dedicated to civil rights and liberal causes, she attended the city's recently integrated public schools. Her family moved to northern Indiana when she was in middle school, and she graduated among the top of her class from Elkhart Memorial High School in 1990.
Shirley then attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she wrote her thesis on the then-raging AIDS epidemic. After graduating in 1994, she moved to San Francisco. Shirley and Tim Pori met in a local all-night diner there while Shirley was waiting tables and Tim was driving for Yellow Cab, and they were married in 1997. She earned her J.D. from New College of California School of Public Interest Law in San Francisco in 1999.
Shirley began her career as a public interest attorney with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, where she helped pilot San Francisco's day-of-court representation program for unrepresented tenants in settlement conferences and the Family Eviction Prevention Consortium rental assistance program. She also worked alongside her husband, Tim Pori, in his firm, representing plaintiffs in civil rights cases. In 2007, she joined the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County to develop their housing practice and eviction defense program, rising to become the directing attorney of their housing unit in 2011, in which capacity she served for the rest of her career.
In 2019, Shirley was recognized by the Western Center for Law and Poverty with the Mary Burdick Advocacy Award for her extraordinary contributions to social justice in the arena of housing stability for low-income tenants and homeowners.
A lifelong Unitarian Universalist, Shirley was a dedicated member of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco for approximately 25 years. In 2021, Shirley was presented with the church's Conard Rheiner Award, "for devoting her legal career to advocating for low-income tenants seeking to maintain safe, adequate, and affordable housing in some of the most affluent communities in the world, on the staff of the Eviction Defense Collaborative and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County."
She is survived by her husband, Tim Pori; her daughter, Georgia Pori; her son, Milo Pori; her parents, Judith and Gordon Gibson; her stepdaughter, Katelyn Steele; step grandchildren Grayson and Weslynn Steele; her sister, Robin Gibson Roysdon; her dog, Arlo; cousins, aunts, uncle, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and a wealth of friends, colleagues and clients.
A memorial service and celebration of Shirley's life is scheduled for Friday, December 17, 2021 at 6 p.m. PST at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. Due to COVID protocols, capacity is limited for the in-person event. To register or to get information about the live-stream and additional ways to honor Shirley, please visit tinyurl.com/ShirleyGibsonMemorial
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Community Land Trust, the "Shirley Gibson Fellowship" at the Eviction Defense Collaborative, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County or First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, 2021.