Born in Hardin, MO on July 16, 1931, Shirley Anne (Ferguson) Ireland lived, laughed and loved until her passing on February 8, 2015. She grew up in Dinuba, CA where in high school she was on the track team. It was during her sophomore year that she met and later married her first love, Gordon Ireland, that “blue-eyed, good looking senior” from the next town over. As Shirley proclaimed “boy were those other girls were jealous!” After they were married they lived in Dinuba and started their family, having two of their five children, Rick and Tom. In 1954, Gordon, Shirley and their young family, moved to Manteca. At that time, Manteca did not have a hospital so the third born child,Tony, was born in Stockton. Their fourth child and first girl, Susan, christened the newly built Manteca hospital. The last of the children was their fifth, a baby girl Shirley boldly named Kyra. She too, was born at Manteca Hospital. The family put down roots and grew up in Manteca. Shirley and Gordon were married for 45 years, until Gordon’s death in 1993.
Shirley was a very artistic, creative and resourceful person. As the saying goes, she could “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, or a purse out of an empty box of detergent or take an empty, wood-framed television set and turn it into a petite love-seat for Susan’s bedroom. She could make anything. She could crochet, paint, sketch, make her own greeting cards, sew, bake, make delicate candies, and the best biscuits and gravy. She was great at playing Pinochle, loved putting together puzzles, and teaching her daughters simple, childhood songs that they remember to this day. Shirley also loved nature, animals, and being outdoors. She loved being in the pines and at the ocean. She would take her youngest son and his friends to Giants baseball games, day trips to the foothills with her girls where she taught them the name and meaning of plants and flowers, and to historical sites of interest. Whether it was Mission San Juan Bautista, Daffodil Hill, Rio Vista, or Pixie Woods, they were always fun day trips and somehow always educational. There was one very special place that Shirley reserved for herself and that was Half-Moon Bay. Being at the beach was her day trip away and she earned every single, solitary moment of it.
Shirley was a fearless mother. She was also a lot of fun. She could play any sport with her boys and hopscotch with her girls. She was the den mother of the boys’ Cub Scout troops and seamstress for the girls’ Barbie doll clothes. She was afraid of no one and with three teenage sons, needed to be tough. She attended every football, baseball, and soccer game that her sons played. Her little girls would come along and be their cheerleaders. She was a proud MHS Buffalo Booster and proud mother of her children. Her eldest son, Rick, left Manteca High at just 17 yrs. old to serve in Vietnam. You better believe, Shirley tied a big, yellow ribbon around the tree in their front yard. Rick returned home safely from his tour in Vietnam to a “Welcome Home Rick” banner the length of the house. For her girls, she made costumes for their school plays, pretty cakes for bake sales, and supported her daughters in the Girl Scouts, Bluebirds and as cheerleaders for Manteca High. When the girls were little she would play jacks with them and always win. When they were older, it was pinochle. She was like a mother to her kids’ friends. Whether it was giving rides, giving haircuts or giving advice, Shirley gave. She fed all of them, scolded many of them, bailed out a few of them, and loved all of them.
After the boys were all grown and married, the grandkids started coming along, all girls. They called her “Mammy” and she helped raise some of them and enjoyed time with all of them. She also began working part-time as a librarian at New Haven elementary, which she did for several years. In later years, Shirley also worked at a flower shop, where she loved making floral arrangements. She and Gordon also did some traveling together until his untimely death at the age of 63. From there, Shirley moved across town to a retirement community where she would start a new chapter. There she spent many happy days hanging out with her friends, going swimming, biking, out to lunch, taking her morning walks, and doing some traveling. It was during this time her daughters started having their own kids, a son for each of them. “Grammy”, as her grandsons called her, played a significant role in helping to raise her eldest grandson, Riley, the son of Kyra. Kyra was a fire captain with CalFire and lived in Chico. Every fire season for several years, Shirley made the trek up to Chico. She cared for Riley while Kyra was gone for long stretches of time fighting fires. Grammy and Riley shared some important and good years together, making lasting memories for both of them. By the time Susan’s son, Devin, was born, Shirley’s health had begun to decline.
Her health would take her to assisted living at the seemingly young age of 72. The next few years would find Shirley struggling with Alzheimer’s. Although she never forgot who her children were (and a special great-grandson) there was evidence of Shirley til the end. She perked up at hearing the silky voice of Frank Sinatra, when anything sweet to eat was offered to her, and when singing with her baby, Kyra, the childhood songs she once taught her. She was sweet but sassy, caring but tough, a little ornery but a whole lot of personality. She was her own woman and even the day before she died, was heard humming a tune. She passed away during the night, peacefully, in her sleep.
Shirley is survived by her brother-in-law, Wayne Ireland, her only surviving sibling, Richard Ferguson, her five children Rick (Rhonda) Tom (Renee), Tony (Sherry), Susan (Heath) and Kyra (Randy), seven grandchildren, 15 great-grand children, and four great-great grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband, Gordon, four sisters, one brother, a daughter-in-law, and her eldest granddaughter. Shirley was well-loved and will be greatly missed.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Chez Shari, located inside of the Manteca Golf Clubhouse, this Friday, February 13, at 1:00. Family and friends are invited to attend.
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Wednesday, February 11, 2015