Shirley Renfro passed away at Valley View Village following a bout of influenza and pneumonia. Shirley was born on a farm in Missouri, April 24, 1918, to Eddie Clarence “Bud” and Opal Nigh during a pandemic and leaves us more than 100 years later during a pandemic. She went to Nigh country school through the eighth grade. Soon after she took a job caring for a neighbor’s wife who was ill to supplement her family’s income and helped care for younger siblings. On Christmas Eve in 1937, she rode a horse several miles to the Justice of the Peace to marry her husband, Lee. During World War II, Lee enlisted in the Army and they were stationed in Washington. Upon discharge, they worked their way back to Missouri picking hops in Oregon and building fence and herding sheep in Idaho. In the early 1950s, they settled in Colfax. Shirley took pride in being a hard worker and of her blue collar status. She worked as a waitress at the White House … not thee White House, though if she had, Washington, D.C. would be forever changed. She worked at Taylor’s Drug Store for nearly 20 years. There she made cherry phosphates, green rivers and chocolate malts, but the real reason customers frequented the fountain was to see Shirley because she was so entertaining. She later retired from Smoke Craft as a factory worker. She was known for her amazing sense of humor and kind spirit but also as a fierce defender of those she loved and underdogs. There were exceptions, however, as she rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals, underdogs or not. Ironically, she passed on what would have been opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Her grand-daughter, Jennifer, said “she had a rough life but you would never have known it.” Her great-grandson, Addison, described her as “great, very observant and bullet-proof.” Shirley was a good dancer and danced her last dance with her great-grandson, Bryce, to an Elvis tune on her 101st birthday. In retirement she enjoyed feeding her birds, tending to her flowers, fishing, hunting mushrooms and volunteering for Iowa CareGivers. Above all she loved family get-togethers. She mastered the art of making up words which substituted for words she didn’t know … words we fondly refer to as “Shirleyisms” and will remain a part of our vocabularies. These are but a few of the many memories we will forever cherish.
A March 26 entry, the day of her passing, in the book, "Choosing Gratitude 365 Days a Year" by Jim Autry and Sally Pederson, Jim wrote, “I read once that life is a canvas and that we should use all the paint we can in creating the painting that is our lives." Shirley used every drop of paint and leaves us a masterpiece of memories.
She is survived by her daughter, Di Findley; granddaughter, Jennifer Swearngin (Jim); with whom she shared a strong bond; great-grandson, Bryce Swearngin (Bailey); great-grandson, Addison Swearngin; and one great-great-granddaughter, Emery Swearngin (Bryce and Bailey). She is also survived by her sister, Helen Bosley (Shenandoah); William H. Nigh (Delores) from Indiana; and Dewayne Nigh (Deloris) from Missouri. She is preceded in death by her husband, Lee Renfro; daughter, Connie Stevens; son-in-law, Jim Stevens; great-grandson, Jacob Swearngin; brothers, Harold and Donald Nigh; and sister, Donna Sue Scott. The family extends their gratitude to the staff (especially Star and Peanut) at Valley View Village and EveryStep for their compassionate end of life care. Due to COVID-19 a private graveside service with family will take place March 30 and a memorial will be held at a later date. At Shirley’s request, in lieu of flowers donations can be made to Iowa CareGivers.