November 19, 1934 – January 27, 2022
As a result of a lengthy ailment, Shirley passed away at home with her family, Alvin (Yorkshire Terrier) at her side and cats Mickie, Zoe and Bailey and with husband, Dougal, and dear friend Brenda O’Sullivan in attendance.
Shirley was born in Winnipeg to George Ernest Russell of Somerset and Alexandra Joy McCulloch of Souris, Manitoba and spent her formative years in Somerset and Souris with her mother Joy (Michie). She had many fond memories of cavorting in the Souris River with three of her close friends, together known as the “River Rats”.
Later she became a legal secretary and worked in locations including Winnipeg, Vancouver, and ultimately Toronto, where she met Dougal in 1967 and they married in 1969. In 1974, as a result of a job offer, they moved to Vancouver, Dougal’s birthplace, with their Old English Sheepdogs and cats and purchased a home in North Vancouver.
She continued her career as a legal secretary, working at various locations through Office Overload; a particularly favourite assignment having been with Cornelius Burke at Burke’s Worldwide Travel.
In the late 1980’s, concurrent significant downturns in natural resource industries signalled the potential demise of Dougal’s employer, which began discharging staff. This necessitated a plan for the future and, having been out to Ucluelet and Tofino together, Shirley suggested “What about the west coast of Vancouver Island?”. This resulted in the refinancing of their house and the acquisition of significant acreage on the shores of Barkley Sound outside Ucluelet in 1990. Dougal obtained early retirement in 1992.
Shirley has described the adventure of living in the wilderness for 19 years, down 5 miles of dirt road, in a custom built log home, off-grid, and having a bear actually come in the house, plus kayaking, watching the whales from the house and having visits from bears, wolves and a cougar, as being the best period of her life.
Included was their regular participation in the Clayoquot Sound old growth logging protests, where Dougal got arrested in 1993. It also helped to have Dr. Jane Hunt, a veterinarian and an absolute treasure, as the only neighbour, half a mile away. This also resulted in being adopted by a few cats which had been abandoned near the Vet, thereby adding to the existing family of a Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, Sheltie and cats.
Ultimately, advancing age dictated that it would be necessary to live closer to civilization and medical facilities, so a house in Qualicum Beach was acquired, resulting in wonderful new friends and neighbours. In Qualicum, Shirley took a basically scalped 0.44 acre property and transformed it into a magnificent garden, including 125 rhodies and azaleas, silk tree, handkerchief/dove trees, “twisted baby” tree, magnolias, dogwoods, roses, weeping cherry and weeping pussy willow and much more.
Shirley lived to garden, loved animals and birds, and was an avid reader – politics, biographies, novels, history, animals, etc. She also loved music, smooth jazz, Don Shirley, Eric Clapton, Doobie Bros., etc. and travel.
With friends, she toured China extensively and went to Egypt, Alaska, and Mexico. With Dougal, she toured eastern Canada, many U.S. states, sometimes in their vintage Airstream trailer, and the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Belize, England, Ireland, Paris and Cuba.
She was a remarkable and unique individual – not only beautiful, highly intelligent, artistic, caring and adventurous (parasailing, hot air balloon, glider, ultralight, wilderness living), but also courageous – having faced and conquered three separate bouts with cancer over the years, eventually succumbing to a severe throat affliction, Zenker’s Diverticulum.
Huge appreciation to Brenda and Ronan O’Sullivan for their inestimable assistance during this period and to the nurses and doctors.
Subject to Covid restrictions, a casual open house in her memory will be held in her garden on May 15, from noon to 4pm. There will be no ceremony, so visitors can arrive at their own convenience.