Shirley Rae Harrison-Ireland passed peacefully at her home surrounded by family and love on November 30th, 2021.
Shirley Rae Harrison Ireland was from an early pioneering Midland family who established a small farm south of Midland in the 1880s. Her parents, H.L. “Hap” Harrison and Florence Parr-Harrison, gave birth to her during the Great Depression on November 23, 1932. Her family also consisted of an older sister, Dorothy, and her younger brother Harry. She was baptized at the First United Methodist Church Midland on Main Street in 1944. The onset of World War Two greatly influenced Shirley and her siblings in their early years. Hap joined the U.S. Navy Sea Bees, and Florence worked on the Bombardier base at Midland Army Air Field. The children, guided by Dorothy, took on extra household responsibilities. When Shirley enrolled in school is where her interest in theater arts grew. Along with her brother Harry, she had the advantage of enrolling in a post-war theater school taught by Art Cole. Participation in the Midland Community theater lasted throughout her active life. Upon graduating from Midland High School in 1951, Shirley attended Texas Tech University and became a sorority member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and met her future husband, civil engineer student, Thomas Poole Ireland. She graduated in 1955 with a degree in Speech Sciences, and became a Speech-Language Pathologist, and married Thomas Ireland in the same year. Thomas’s career would take the growing family on travel adventures across the U.S. and eventually the world. They have four children, Lee Ireland, born in Lubbock, Texas, Floyd Ireland, born in Midland, Texas, Kathy Ireland-Hill in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Paula Ireland-Collins in Bakersfield, California. Despite the frequent moves and large family, Shirley served as a pediatric speech therapist in most residency areas: El Paso, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, Ulysses, Kansas, Bakersfield, California, Westlake, Louisiana, Comanche Iowa, and The Hague, Holland.
Shirley returned to Midland permanently in the 1970s. In numerous plays, Shirley contributed to Midland Community Theater, her last stage appearance being The Grapes of Wrath in 2004. Shirley could also be instantly recognized in the Summer Mummers moviolas. She starred alongside lifelong friend, Mary-Lou Cassity playing little old women who would assault the villain with their purses. A role she recalled as “playing little old ladies before we were little old ladies.” She continued her work as a speech therapist in the public schools for Monahans ISD and Greenwood ISD. She retired in 2001 but continued volunteering her services to the Midland Montessori School into the late 2000s. Shirley also never gave up her love for continuing her education. Shirley maintained her speech pathology certifications, and she also enrolled in Midland College Senior Education programs that allowed her to travel to many great destinations, including Washington, D.C., Boston, Savannah, Jacksonville, and even attended a two-week course at The University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Her many other travels included trips to Quito, Ecuador, with her grandchildren Lisa, Holly, and Jessica to visit her son, Floyd and his family. As a member of the First Methodist Church and their choir, she was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing at the White House for a 2008 Christmas party during the George W. Bush administration. To keep active in her retirement, she enjoyed presenting her war-era paper doll collection that she and her sister acquired during their childhood.
Shirley Ireland is preceded in death by her parents, Florence Parr-Harrison, H.L. “Hap” Harrison, husband Thomas “Bear” Ireland, sister Dorothy Martin, and brother Harry Harrison. She is survived by her children Lee Ireland, Floyd Ireland, Kathy Hill, Paula Collins, and their respective spouses. Along with eight grandkids and ten great-grandchildren.
The visitation will occur at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home, from 6-8 p.m. Friday, December 3, 2021. The First United Methodist Church will hold a memorial service at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, 2021. A graveside burial will be at Resthaven Cemetery at 9 a.m. Monday, December 6, 2021.
Arrangements are under the direction of Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home & Crematory of Midland. Online condolences may be made at www.npwelch.com.
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