Cover photo for Shirley Ann Wollner's Obituary
Shirley Ann Wollner Profile Photo
1931 Shirley 2021

Shirley Ann Wollner

June 9, 1931 — January 14, 2021

Shirley Ann Lemke Wollner of Durham died on January 14, 2021 after living with Alzheimer ’s disease for over 24 years. Shirley’s husband of 62 years, Woodrow Wollner, died in 2015.

Shirley was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1931 to Margaret Kubitz Lemke and Henry Lemke. She often told her daughters about how she and her sister Marilyn would get around the city on roller skates as kids. She then moved to a rural area near West Bend, Wisconsin and lived there until she went to college. Shirley earned a degree in recreation from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and taught her daughters the university fight song when they were very young.

Shirley married Woody in 1952 and worked a variety of jobs while he attended college. Daughters Janet and Karen were born and over the next decades, Shirley worked primarily as an elementary school teacher while the family moved several times, finally landing in Durham. Shirley was well-loved as a teacher, having a particular passion for students who struggled in school.

During the course of moves to three different states, Shirley always ensured that Janet and Karen felt safe and happy in each new community. She presented each move as a positive change and made new networks of friends in each community while making each new house a home. After the last move to Durham, Shirley worked at the Employment Security Commission before retiring.

Shirley loved to sing and taught her daughters hundreds of songs from many decades. She knitted, baked, crafted, volunteered, golfed, played Sheepshead, traveled, sewed (including clothes and matching doll clothes for Janet and Karen), gardened, and refinished furniture. She was a lifelong learner who worked on the family genealogy, loved visiting historical sites and cemeteries, and enjoyed opportunities to travel abroad and see how others lived.

Woody and Shirley had a long and loving marriage and were dedicated to each other until the end. Although very different personalities, they worked in tandem to support their shared goals and were holding hands in the assisted living facility until the day Woody died. Shirley was a wonderful grandma, doing crafts, baking, teaching knitting, reading, encouraging, and rooting for her grandchildren.

Shirley’s most essential characteristics were empathy and kindness. She was always reaching out to people who were new, who needed help, or who were struggling. Shirley took her daughters to volunteer at a VA Hospital when they were teenagers during the Vietnam War, knowing those men needed a letter written for them or someone to listen. She volunteered to tutor low-income children who needed some extra help, and she befriended and assisted Cuban refugees who fled to the US in the early 1960s. There is undoubtedly much more that we don’t know about.

Shirley’s family would like to thank the care teams at The Pavilion and Friendship House at Croasdaile Village and Transitions Lifecare for their compassionate and loving care of Shirley for the last seven years.

Shirley is survived by her daughters, Janet Key (Ron) and Karen McCraw (John Vlah). She is also survived by her sister, Marilyn Edwards (Richard) and her brother, Ron Lemke. Shirley has four grandchildren: Tanya Key Moser, Kathleen McCraw, Nathan Key (Hannah), and Alex McCraw. She loved them very much and was proud of all of them. Shirley has four great-grandchildren whom she did not get to know before her dementia, but whom she would have loved. They are Vivian Moser, Cameron Moser, Eden Moser, and Savannah Key.

In lieu of flowers, please extend kindness and understanding to someone and think of Shirley. She would like that. Due to COVID-19, there will not be a memorial service at this time, but there will be one in the future. If you would like to make a donation in her honor, please support an organization that helps people who have lost jobs or housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Shirley Ann Wollner, please visit our flower store.


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