LOLEN "WHITEY" CLARE SHIRLEY, 88 of Grant, NE passed away Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at Perkins County Hospital. He had suffered a fall which created additional breathing problems to an already diminished lung capacity.
Whitey was born March 15, 1929 in Hayes County, NE to Clare and LaVada (White) Shirley. He was the second of six children, Devona, Donna, Gordon, Lucille and Norma Jean. The Shirleys moved to Madrid in 1939. Whitey attended Madrid grade school and graduated Madrid High School in 1949. He was a track star and competed as a runner in several state track meets. He excelled in basketball and football as well. Coming through the depression era he began to work on cars and trucks with his father at the age of 12 and there started the beginning of his career as a mechanic and his industriousness to succeed.
Following graduation he enlisted in the Air Force in September of 1950 with hopes of becoming skilled as a plane mechanic. This dream was not to be, as he received training to be the mechanical engineer on a 85 ft. crash boat. He served with the 29th Crash Rescue Boat Flight. His entire four years of service was in Hawaii and on Wake Island doing emergency recoveries of personnel in crashed planes in the western Pacific Ocean during the Korean conflict. He was sent stateside to finish the last months his tour at Long Island, NY moving boats down the eastern seaboard. He was discharged in September of 1954.
Upon his return home from the service, Whitey and his brother Gordon applied to the Kansas City Mechanic's Trade School and graduated in 1955. Upon his return to Perkins County he worked in a mechanical shop in Wallace. For a short time he followed an opportunity to run well drilling rigs. It was after he'd met the love of his life, Elizabeth (Betty) Biggs Kerr that he returned to Madrid to permanently work with his father Clare in the Shirley Repair Shop in Madrid.
On June 5, 1957, Betty and Whitey were married in the Grant Congregational Church. To this union he was blessed to have gained three children; Tom, Ronnie and Connie (C.J.). The family made their home in Madrid.
Whitey built a new shop in 1960 and continued running Shirley's Repair Shop until 1999 when an acute case of shingles nearly killed him. Left with only one lung, Whitey was unable to continue his work as a mechanic. Shortly after that they decided to move to Grant to be closer to medical support.
Throughout his years in Perkins County, Whitey was an esteemed businessman and well-known public servant. He served as the Fire Chief in Madrid for many years and was a town councilman. He was an active member and leader in the Madrid American Legion Post 271, and his Legion membership spanned over 60 years. After being in Grant a short time, Whitey was approached about assuming the role as Veteran's Service Officer for Perkins County, which he reluctantly agreed to take on for "3 years." Over 20 years later, Whitey had earned nearly every commendation possible for his exemplary and diligent service to his fellow veterans. At the time of his retirement, Whitey had served on the Veteran's Services Committee for over 50 years, with nearly half of those years serving as the Veteran's Service Officer. He was also honored to have served as the State Commander for the Nebraska 40 & 8.
Whitey was known by many for his servant's heart, and his soft-spoken manner. Despite his quiet demeanor, Whitey proved to be a zealous and powerful advocate for the veterans of the county. He was meticulous, organized and sharp. While Whitey was truly a gifted mechanic, he found the greatest sense of purpose in serving others.
Whitey was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; 2 step sons, Ronnie and Tom Kerr; 2 sisters, Lucille Long and Donna Kugler; and brother, Gordon Shirley.
Survivors include his step daughter, C.J. Rezac of Grant; grandchildren, Jim and John Rezac, Ron Kerr; great grandchildren, Jack, Rockton and Ryder Rezac, Kelly Beth, Scott, Kylie and Tanner Rezac, Sydney Sohler and husband David, and Emma & Kendall Schorer; great-great grandchildren, Aden and Liam Snyder, Harlow Sohler; 2 sisters, Norma Jean (Tom) Summers of Fallbrook, CA, Devona Allen of Grant; along with many other relatives and friends.
A memorial has been established in his memory. Condolences may be shared at bullocklongfuneralhome.com, where the service will also be streamed live for those unable to attend.
Services will be held on Monday, May 8, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. at the Grant United Methodist Church with Pastor Tammy Aubushon officiating. Burial with military honors will follow in the Grant Fairview Cemetery.
Visitation will be on Sunday, from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Bullock-Long Funeral Home in Grant.
Bullock-Long Funeral Home of Grant is in charge of arrangements.