On May 24th, 1935, Shirley Ann Young was born to Walter and Alice Young of Kingfisher, OK. Shirley lost her father when she was a baby but gained a loving, supportive additional father when her mother married Delbert Gerber ten years later.
She was blessed with a sister, Joy Yost (husband Tom, deceased), and a brother, Max Gerber (wife Karen), who still live in Oklahoma with large joyous families of their own. Shirley passed away June 15, 2019, and is preceded in death by her parents and her loving, devoted husband, Raymond Walter Gerber. She is survived by her sister and brother and their families: her daughters, Melodee Lavell Gerber Mancuso and her husband, Joseph, and Cheryl Lynn Mitchell and her husband Chris; her wonderful grandchildren, Nicholas Anthony Mancuso, Callie Dion Moore (husband Josh), and Chaney Lynn Monan (husband Charlie). Shirley welcomed her first great-grandchild, Maxine Rae Monan, just 6 months ago and could not have been prouder or more delighted. She held particular affection for all of her nieces and nephews and wanted to be better at social media to keep up with their lives.
Shirley attended a very small school in Omega, OK, where she made friendships that lasted a lifetime. She and Ray returned to the area for class reunions well into their retirement years. Before her sister and brother came along, Shirley spent every summer with her Aunt Midge and Uncle Gus Liebl on their farm, where she played with her cousins Melvina Lochner and Bob Liebl and formed close loving relationships with all. She was also fortunate to have her grandparents, Grace and John Davis be a huge part of her life and enjoy time with them whenever regular visits to Oklahoma took place.
Shirley and Ray moved from the family farm in Dover, OK to Texas City, TX after Ray finished his master’s degree in chemical engineering. But fresh after their marriage in June of 1953, Shirley won the title of “Rattlesnake Queen”, a very big event in Oklahoma. She returned in 1954 nine months pregnant with her first child to crown the new queen the following year.
After moving to the Gulf Coast in the late 1950s, Hurricane Carla flooded their new home that they had only spent one night in before fleeing the ravages of the storm. It remains the family home after all these years, and the two oak trees they planted that year are still providing shade for the back yard. Shirley was a master homemaker and could have had a business as a tailor with her sewing skills. Being the loving, caring person she was, Shirley took a summer to teach her girls and several of their friends to sew when they were just entering junior high school. She took great pride in her garden, winning a local award for her beautiful front yard. Her home was always spotless and orderly, passing any white-glove test presented when Dr. Fuchs would visit.
After her children were a bit older, Shirley entered the working world as a loan officer at Carbide Credit Union and later became a realtor and broker. She enjoyed the challenges of the work world and was adamant that we attend college and have careers and marketable skills.
Shirley and Ray enjoyed a large group of friends that joined them playing bridge, laughing at Dance Club, and trying new food at regular social get togethers. She made every holiday special. They traveled extensively with their friends and loved going overseas to learn and experience world history, food, and varied cultures.
Shirley was known for her friendliness, her community activity, and her involvement in her dearly loved Presbyterian Church. She often embarrassed her children by talking to every stranger in the grocery line, but then they as adults continued the ritual of reaching out. It was a good lesson to pass on. She was a loyal citizen and grateful for all that Texas City offered her family. She loved giving city tours organized through the local museum and entertaining buses of folks who would visit our town.
Shirley and Ray enjoyed over 50 years together. They famously met at a family reunion, and even though she thought Ray was a bit stuffy with his bow tie, she fell deeply in love with his humor, intelligence, and quiet patience. Shirley was full of adventure and energy, and they balanced one another well.
Shirley had great affection for her cats and her amazing dog, Odie. She would sing silly songs to them and spoiled them in every way. She took in stray cats and never left a pet behind when going on a driving trip. She and Ray even turned around and drove back 200 miles when they discover their cat Precious Darling had snuck out of the car when they stopped for lunch on a road trip.
Shirley bravely dealt with rheumatoid arthritis and blood pressure problems later in life. She used ingenuity and various tools to cope with daily challenges so she could remain independent and drove her new car until just six months ago.
She remained feisty and determined always. We have been very fortunate to have kind, loving caregivers that provided wonderful care for her. The family wishes to extend sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Sherril Fontenette for the dedication, joy, and humor she brought to Shirley each and every day as she helped our loved one in her challenging last few months. We would also like to express our gratitude to her other caregivers, Bianca Dawson and Christine August, for the help they provided.
In our hearts, we know that Shirley is at peace and has rejoined her husband and parents in the Lord’s arms. She would like to be remembered as vibrant, giving, and determined.
Shirley’s life will be celebrated in a private family service.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to The Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF) at curearthritis.org.