Shirley Stoner, of Walsh, Colorado, at the age of 78, passed away on May 24, 2022, in Johnson City hospital, after experiencing a flash pulmonary edema. Her passing was entirely unexpected. She was one of the most seemingly-healthy great-grandmothers you could know.
Shirley Jean was the eldest daughter of Leon and Virgil Harlan. She was born October 17, 1943, in Lamar, Colorado. She was later followed by sisters Gayle and Karen, and together they all resided in Walsh for Shirley’s entire upbringing. They were a tight-knit family and were integral members of the Walsh community.
Shirley was the big sister, but not always the most protective one. Some of you might remember Gayle’s silver front tooth. That came about after shenanigans involving Shirley, Gayle, and a lasso. She always felt bad about this unfortunate incident, but it never stood in the way of their closeness as sisters.
Shirley often shared memories of their annual Harlan family end-of-summer trips to Denver to shop for new school-year clothes, have family time, visit Lakeside Amusement Park, and go to see the horse races. A memory she shared was how Leon would leave the family in the car and carefully inspect a possible hotel room, before agreeing to have his family stay there. She said it made her feel very loved and important to her dad.
Shirley, Gayle, and Karen learned to tap-dance and performed together in their youth. They even did an encore surprise performance when Shirley was in her 60s right here in Walsh for Leon & Virgil’s 50th anniversary celebration. Another youthful memory Shirley shared was how every Saturday growing up, “We would work all day doing chores and cleaning the house, and then afterward we would pay 25 cents to go to the movie.”
Shirley attended Walsh schools, starting with first grade. In high school, she was a cheerleader. As a sophomore while attending “WHS”, Shirley met Bill Stoner, whose father “Doc Stoner” had moved to Baca County to be the local physician. The story goes that Bill’s sister Lynne first identified the likely match between Shirley and Bill, and the quote went something like “I’ve found your wife, Bill.” They actually met while driving down main street. They started going steady on Valentine’s Day in 1959. About this time, Bill was playing in a basketball tournament in Lamar and Shirley was a cheerleader. Bill’s previous girlfriend from Fowler was there at the tournament as well and let’s just say that Shirley won the confrontation. Shirley had a lot of school spirit and enjoyed playing the saxophone in the band. Bill & Shirley were “Mr. & Miss WHS” at their senior prom.
After graduating from WHS, Shirley & Bill headed off to Fort Collins and attended CSU. Shirley earned an Associate’s (2 year) degree in Secretarial Studies from CSU. Rumors were that they were going to get engaged at Christmas time, but they surprised everyone and did it at Thanksgiving instead in 1962. Shirley, Bill, and Virgil ordered the wedding band from a hardware store catalogue. They were married on June 16, 1963. Next, the young couple headed to Boulder to attend CU, where Bill earned B.Sc. and Master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. Shirley got a job as a Secretary to the Dean of Men.
Boulder is where Shirley’s first child, Debbie, was born in 1965. Their travels next took them to Redondo Beach, California, where Bill earned a Doctoral degree in systems science from U.C.L.A. During this time, Karen and Glen honeymooned there, and Shirley loved that her youngest sister developed an enduring relationship with Debbie. This is also where Shirley welcomed three more children between 1970 and 1974: Michael, Kelly, and Jodi.
One special Harlan family memory was Shirley and her sisters making sugar cookies for Christmas each year. When in Scotland she continued the tradition and had her children make and deliver the cookies to friends on Christmas Eve. They were always surprised that Santa stopped by while they were out. Making Christmas cookies is a tradition still carried-on by her daughters and many grandchildren and great grandchildren to this day.
Shirley was a wonderful caretaker who always went the extra mile. She embraced motherhood in totality. She was, by nature, truly compassionate. She found religion in her early adult life, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided continual direction for all of her days. She loved the scriptures, Heavenly Father, her Savior Jesus Christ, attending church, and the temple.
SERVICE was Shirley’s calling in life. She dedicated her precious time on earth to serve others in multiple capacities. We can’t come close to explaining the extent of her selflessness, but we can highlight two FAMILY examples. She would:
– Create personalized birthday cards for every single Stoner family member, three generations deep; each card unique each time, speaking to current affairs, and tailored with multiple pictures and clipart.
– Produce a completely customized and updated HARLAN FAMILY annual calendar, complete with pictures and birth dates and wedding dates and people’s ages that year; family montages; and the occasional spiritual messages related to love of country and love of God.
Shirley recorded “everything”; and would take meticulous notes from just about any meeting she attended. She kept detailed personal journals with daily entries as late as the day before she passed away. She could have been a professional genealogist. She held a deep appreciation for our country’s history, and for historical records and for trying to figure-out the stories they could tell. She was so often prepared for anything common…someone might need a needle and thread and sure enough she would have it in her purse.
Shirley served others; even strangers. She held countless positions within her church for five decades. In Scotland she was very involved with the church serving in multiple capacities as needed. She was a member of the Officer’s Wives Club and they served the “old folks” community in Edzell. She participated in service while part of the Theta Beta Sorority when she returned to Walsh after the second trip to Scotland. She served on the Walsh Hospital Board as secretary for over a decade, and helped fight to keep it here! She was devoted to the Walsh Alumni Banquet and sacrificed much time and effort for its continued success.
Every grandchild shared a common goal: to be taller than 5-foot Grandma. It would be celebrated each year when the Stoner clan would descend upon Walsh and create total, but cherished, unforgettable chaos and memories for a few days. She so loved any time being spent with family.
Shirley disliked cooking meals with a passion. During one of those annual, very full-house Christmas visits she uttered, “I’d rather take a lick’in, than be a chef.” Another comment was, “I hope we don’t have to eat in heaven.” One of the young grandkids, when explaining and comparing food preparation skills between two grandmothers said, “Grandma Stoner makes the best Pop Tarts ever.” Be that as it may, Shirley kept her family fed and they loved her fudge, Christmas cookies, and spaghetti & meatballs.
In the 1970s, Bill took a job in Scotland and he moved Shirley and the family there. They lived there on two separate tours, lasting about eight years total. On the first tour they lived near the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) Edzell base and this is where their patriotic spirit grew. They attended multiple activities for the Bicentennial celebration year of our country in 1976. This is where they wore their first matching patriotic shirts as a family in front of the Edzell arch. Shirley was very involved in her children’s lives as they attended the American school on base. They learned to love the Scottish people and culture through attending the nearest branch of the church in Forfar (pronounced Forfur).
On the second tour the Stoner’s lived in Montrose and the kids attended Scottish schools and church there. Shirley joined a bowling league on the base and the kids played as well. One time she prepared an entire Thanksgiving dinner for an American family in Scotland because the pregnant mother-to-be couldn’t stomach the smells of cooking turkey but really wanted to provide it to her family. The Stoner family still keeps in touch with several Navy friends and Scottish friends that were met during that time.
In 1985, Shirley and Bill built a house north of Walsh and finally returned “home”; right near neighbors Leon & Virgil and Karen & Glen McCall. Walsh was where her roots had always been planted, and it’s here where her three youngest children also attended and graduated from Walsh High School.
Bill may not realize it as much as their children know, but Shirley’s love for Bill grew exponentially after Bill retired in 2012. Finally, with no more work travel interfering with life, she didn’t have to share him with the world as much as before. Their love reached new heights and a multitude of moments of love and friendship were witnessed during the past decade.
Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, and friend, Shirley Jean Stoner will be so dearly missed. She may have had small feet, but she leaves huge shoes to fill. She leaves her family with everlasting memories, husband Bill Stoner of Walsh, daughter Debra & Michael Iverson, son Michael & Missy Stoner, daughter Kelly & David Reyes, and daughter Jodi & James Yager; 12 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren & 3 on the way.
Shirley was laid to rest near other family members that preceded her in death: parents Leon & Virgil Harlan, sister Gayle Cook, brother-in-law Glen McCall, and nephew Steve McCall.