Published: Thursday, October 25th, 2012
Shirley Akers was born in North Dakota to John and Janet (Thayer) Bartholomew in October 1920. She had a hard life growing up when her father and sister contracted tuberculosis and went to live in a sanatorium.
Shirley's mother had to help care for them in order to pay for their stay at the hospital. This took up a considerable amount of time for her mother, so Shirley and her two brothers went to live with their grandmother and aunts in Atchison, Kan. It was there Shirley met the love of her life, Louis Akers.
They attended the University of Kansas together and wed just as Louis was drafted into the Army for WWII. They lived briefly in San Diego, Calif., while he received specialized training. Shirley remembers a housing shortage because of the massive numbers of soldiers in the area at the time and having to live in a quonset hut.
After Louis returned from war, he attended physical therapy school in Rochester, Minn. While at Rochester, again they found themselves in the mist of a housing shortage and were forced to live in a renovated railroad car.
After graduating from physical therapy school, he began a long career with the VA system. Together they made several moves around the U.S., including Alaska, Hot Springs, S.D., Libertyville, Ill., and then back to Custer, S.D.
While living in Illinois, Shirley received her teaching certificate and taught English at Libertyville High School.
After moving back to Custer, she did a lot of substitute teaching, especially Spanish class. She was active in Custer Community Church and loved making music and singing with other Custer residents, especially Jan and Herb Conn and Ramona Peterson. Another favorite pastime for her was riding horses, joining others on trail rides.
During the 1980s, Shirley and Louis started their "snowbird" routine and began living in Green Valley, Ariz., during the winter. It was in 1998 that they moved to Green Valley full time.
Shirley made friends whereever she went. She was active in her church and other community service work, but her passion was the Spanish classes she taught to other residents around the area. She made many long and lasting friendships through the years from her classes.
Shirley had a passion for life, but even more so for her family. Family was very important to her and she will always be fondly remembered for her bits of advice and wisdom and especially her loving ways.
Shirley died Oct. 9, 2012, of cancer while summering with her son, James, in Anchorage, Alaska. She was 92.
She is survived by her sons, David of Green Valley, James (Diane) of Anchorage, and John (Wanda) of Custer; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and two nephews.
A memorial service will be held in Green Valley at a later date.
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