Shirley Hardinge

  • Shirley, left, enjoyed a friendly game of golf or tennis. Here she is at age 85 with friends on the golf course at Fountain Head Country Club.
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Shirley Hardinge, who died May at the age of 87. Her obituary appeared in the May 24 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Shirley Conner caught the attention of a young man named Thomas Hardinge back in 1945.

"Tom" had been drafted to serve in World War II and had just returned home to Hagerstown when he laid eyes on her.

"I can't remember where we met. I just saw her someplace and I asked to take her out," he said.

The couple began a relationship that Tom describes as "heavy stuff." Too heavy, in fact, for him to bear.

"She had graduated from Hood College and was working at Fairchild. I had no education and no money. I got cold feet," he said.


So the two parted amicably andTom headed to the University of Virginia.

Shirley was born in 1922 in Hagerstown. She lived in Baltimore before moving to Waynesboro, Pa., where her family operated a grocery business through the Great Depression. She graduated from Waynesboro Senior High School in 1940, then attended Hood College, where she earned a degree in English.

She put her skills to work at Fairchild Aircraft, working on the company's publication, FAD Magazine, and becoming executive assistant to the chief of engineering. She later moved into a career with Sharrett Inc. that spanned more than 36 years.

Shirley married Fort Detrick scientist Howard Soltis, and the couple settled into a home on the golf course at Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown.

Meanwhile, Tom Hardinge and his wife, Pamela Statton, had moved into a home on the other side of the course. The couples would get together for the occasional round of golf or for dinner.

Shirley was a dedicated volunteer, serving on the Board of Directors for the YMCA and Brook Lane Health Services, the Alumni Board of Hood College, and with the local chapter of the International Management Council and Zonta International, an organization for the advancement of professional women.

In 1979, Shirley's husband died of an aneurysm. She bought a condo in Florida, where she'd sometimes meet up with the Hardinges, who also owned a condo there. She stayed active with her job, volunteer work and travel.

In 2002, Tom Hardinge's first wife passed away. After some time, Tom picked up where he'd left off nearly 60 years ago.

"I called Shirley and said, 'Let's go out. I'll come up and take you out to dinner,'" Tom said. "And we started going out. There wasn't any hanky panky. She said, 'No hanky panky.'"

They married in 2004. He describes her as "a Renaissance person." Initially, he was attracted to her physical beauty, but then he was wowed by her intelligence and her numerous avocations.

"She was so beautiful. I mean a drop-dead figure. Everybody looked at her figure, but she was smart, so smart," he said. "And a good dancer and a good cook, too. When she'd cook, she'd cook gourmet."

Shirley enjoyed tennis more than golfing.

"She was a good athlete," Tom said. "Not outstanding, but good."

She wore her spunky feminist spirit like a badge, Tom said.

"She was a feminist. I mean, oh boy, a 'burn the bra' feminist. She was 'Equal work, equal pay. Women are hitting the glass ceiling,'" he said.

During January,while Tom and Shirley were wintering in Florida, Shirley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"Shirley's mother lived to be 93 and my mother lived to be 95," Tom said. "We thought we might have pretty much time left. Then, bango, she got this cancer."

Shirley's decline was rapid. Though she loved traveling the world, she longed to regain enough strength to return to Hagerstown. She arrived home May 13, and on the 18th, she died.

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