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Life Story / Obituary
Generous, kind, and happy, Shirley Smith lived a life rich in family and friends. A woman who never knew a stranger, Shirley greeted every person as a friend and every day as a gift. Shirley was a stylish woman who radiated goodness and inspired it in others. With signature style, Shirley taught everyone who knew her to find joy in their lives and often encouraged others by saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Cherished by many, Shirley will long be remembered by those she loved.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1935 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. While reeling in the heartache of Black Sunday, our nation’s 20.1% unemployment rate and the gathering war clouds as Germany passed the Nuremberg laws, Americans found much hope in Amelia Earhart’s’ first solo Pacific flight, the inventions of parking meters, fluorescent tubes for light, and the game of Monopoly, as well as the first Orange Bowl, first Pacific Airmail delivery, and the first technicolor film; Mickey Mouse. Locally, in Jackson, Michigan, a celebration was shared by many as the world welcomed bright and beautiful Shirley on December 9.
Growing up in Southern Michigan during the 30s and 40s, Shirley’s early years were rooted in family traditions and a love of the outdoors. Her parents were hard workers who instilled this value in their children. While her father worked as a laborer, her mother was a home worker. Along with her siblings, Betty, Frank, Ed, and Dale, Shirley enjoyed the outdoors. She was a proud tomboy and had a horse named Rusty. She long remembered the time her brothers hit her in the eye with a football and gave her a black eye and when Grandpa Lyle popped the ball with a knife. During her teen years, Shirley enjoyed cruising to the Dome, a hamburger joint in Jackson, and slumber parties with her girlfriends.
After graduating from high school, she attended college for a time before settling into family life with her husband, Harold T. Smith "Smitty". She and Smitty shared the joy of raising their two children, Kelly and Andy. Shirley relished in motherhood, tending to her home and creating many treasured memories. She earned her nickname, Shirley Bird when she owned a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. After she bought a house on Acorn Drive, she was quickly known as Squirrely.
In addition to raising her children, Shirley worked as a playground Supervisor at Chime Street School. She also worked for the Kalamazoo Public School Administration for 27 years, where her kind nature always ensured a great workday for all.
Shirley always found joy in everything and humbly appreciated the simple things in life, like watching favorite shows, traveling, reading, gathering for the holidays, and playing games. The Bold and the Beautiful and the Young and the Restless were her favorite daytime shows, and the James Bond series her favorite films. The Beach Boys played her favorite tunes. Her travels included going to Florida with friends and family, exploring. Italy with Jackie, the Cayman Islands with Harold, and Laughlin, Nevada with her neighbor and companion Mike. Her trip with Harold to Lake Tahoe when they got caught in a snowstorm was especially memorable. In her quiet time, Shirley liked to read works by Danielle Steel and snuggle with her Schnauzer and Scottie dogs. Many fun memories were made while gambling or playing games, even when she lost miserably in Jelly Belly Bean Boozled at a Thanksgiving party when she drew the dirty sock.
Without a doubt, Shirley’s greatest joy came from spending time with her family. She had the two coolest and luckiest kids who quickly learned to heed her “Wait until your Father gets home!” warnings. They also came to appreciate how special Shirley made sure holidays were for her loved ones. When her kids were young, the family always spent Christmas Eve with her family, except for the one year they went up north, which resulted in Shirley being promptly put on the naughty list! Upon becoming a grandmother, Shirley’s joy grew beyond words. Eric, Paige, Rachel, and AJ were her heart’s delight. She enthusiastically welcomed her great-granddaughter Cheryl-Anne to her family with the happiest of hearts.
After a month’s stay at Rose Arbor, Shirley died on December 1, 2021. Though the world feels far less certain in the absence of Shirley’s love and light, we find comfort in knowing she is at peace. We will also find comfort in the honor of carrying her beautiful legacy forward. In each moment we meet life’s challenges with confidence, gather as a family, cheer on the Detroit Tigers, travel, ski, or spend time at the lake, and choose joy, we celebrate the many ways Shirley gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her vibrant spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Cremation will take place and private services will be held with burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Shirley’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Humane Society. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.