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Shirley M. Ford

September 17, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Shirley Ford and her husband, Terry Ford, pose for this picture taken for their 40th wedding anniversary in 2004.
Submitted Photo

FAIRPLAY, Md. — Shirley Ford was known as a powerful "prayer warrior."

Whether she was out shopping, in a fast-food restaurant, walking through Robinwood Medical Center or receiving a phone call in the middle of the night, she would pray.

Shirley herself survived several types of cancer — lymphoma 21 years ago, when she was given about six weeks to live, ovarian cancer in 2003, cancer of the intestine and colon in 2005 and 2007, and basal cell skin cancers at different times.

Brenda Eyler of Hagerstown, her middle daughter, and Patricia McKinley of Martinsburg, W.Va., her youngest daughter, marvel that in the end, it was respiratory failure and not cancer that claimed their mother's life. They credit her faith and prayers for getting her through.

"She basically conquered cancer. Cancer didn't take her," Patricia said. "Her ultimate healing is in heaven, anyway."

They are quick to add their mother wasn't a religious fanatic, but someone who put her faith in action.

"She had God's love in her life. She didn't just have it, she shared it," said Patricia, who added that her mother even prayed out loud in her sleep.

Family was important to Shirley. She was "the glue" that helped keep the family together, and was in charge of the family reunion until the last one, when her health was deteriorating.

Oldest daughter Sandra Jamison of Hagerstown said she told her sisters that she doesn't know what she would have done without Shirley's help.

"Family was important, but above family, God was the most important," Patricia said. "If it wasn't for the Lord, she wouldn't have been here as long."

Even friends were considered part of the family.

"If you were near my mom, you were definitely touched by her at some point in your life," Patricia said.

Shirley liked to have fun, whether it was singing, dancing, hula-hooping or playing baseball in the backyard with her grandchildren.

She was one of eight children and grew up on Dogstreet Road in Keedysville. She attended Boonsboro High School, but did not graduate.

Her daughters said Shirley was sensitive about not going further in her education, but said her wisdom and common sense more than made up for it. Shirley's sense of humor allowed her to laugh at her "southern twang,"  the way she pronounced things and her style of often saying things backwards, such as cheese grill instead of grilled cheese.

"She encouraged others," Brenda said. "Mom didn't have any degrees. She didn't give herself enough credit."

Shirley was 18 when she married Terry Ford. He was five years older than her and had served in the U.S. Army before they married.

During most of their marriage, Shirley was a stay-at-home mother who "wore every hat there was," including helping Terry with his business, Brenda said.

"I could never be my mom, but I strive to be like her. She was an awesome mom," Patricia said as she fought back tears.

The couple shared a love for bowling and trains. Both Shirley and Terry bowled at Dual Lanes and they traveled to tournaments for Terry.

"One of her highest sets with a handicap was 662. I still need to beat that," Patricia said with a laugh.

The marriage had its ups and downs, but the couple was committed to each other, providing a solid model for her own marriage, Patricia said. Terry supported Shirley through her health issues, and she cared for him when he battled lung cancer.

"She focused on the good in everybody," Patricia said. "She's instilled that in us."

Shirley loved gardening and the outdoors, and would sit on the front porch whenever she could. Brenda, who moved in with her to help take care of her, planted flowers for her mother this year since she was unable to.

Two weeks before she died, Shirley canned pickles, tomatoes and corn, even though she had to work sitting down.

"She always made you feel welcome," said Brenda, noting that sweet tea always was waiting for the next visitor.

After the funeral, a sit-down meal was served to guests on china because that's how Shirley would have shown hospitality.

"Her belief was that it was always better to have more than not enough," Patricia said.

Stories abound of people calling to check on Shirley and having her turn the conversation around to how they were doing.

"She was never worried about herself," Patricia said.

Louwanna Harne, whose husband is pastor of Virginia Avenue Church of God, said she and Shirley met when their children were young, and were best friends for more than 40 years.

Shirley was loyal to her church, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Boonsboro, where she sang in the choir, and was involved with outreach ministries of many local churches. When Terry died in 2006, Shirley became a part of the World of Wonderful Widows and Widowers at Louwanna's church.

"She was a loyal friend," Louwanna said. "I could tell her anything and share about the children. She would pray — she had a great faith. I had the privilege to be with her and the whole family when she went to be with the Lord."

One of Shirley's last trips was about two months ago with the WOWWs group to ride the train in Strasburg, Pa.

Many trusted in Shirley's gentle ways and her care not to share confidences.

"She bore a lot of other's burdens," Brenda said.

"That's why she prayed. She gave it to God," Patricia said.

"Who didn't she help? She helped everybody," Louwanna said.

Patricia said her husband, Troy, was like a son to Shirley. She shared with him that she'll miss the phone call she had with her mother every morning that got her day off to a good start.

"Those calls meant a lot to me," Patricia said. "I have best friends, but they're not the same as my mom."

Family and friends were at Shirley's bedside at Meritus Medical Center at the end. Brenda said Shirley told everyone she loved them by name and gave hugs and kisses.

Shirley said she was tired and went to sleep for the last time.

"She just slipped away," Patricia said. "It was very peaceful."

Brenda and Patricia said their mother never pushed God on anybody.

"She spoke it when she felt the need to, but mostly was a living example," Brenda said.

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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 M. Ford, who died Sept. 9 at the age of 65. Her obituary was published in the Sept. 10 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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