Nine days after celebrating his ninety-sixth birthday, on October 29th 2019, Shirley Wilson of Payson, Utah, passed peacefully into the other side.
Born October 20, 1923, Shirley was the fifth child of six born to Richard and Jennie May Mitchell Wilson. Born into a large and humble family, Shirley was used to getting hand-me-down coveralls used by his two older brothers for Christmas. He learned hard work early by helping raise vegetables in the family garden, scouring the nearby railway track bed for extra lumps of coal to sell and by raising his own chickens and selling their eggs.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th 1941, Shirley was a senior at Payson High School and quickly volunteered to serve in the US Navy. Immediately after graduation Shirley entered the Navy, receiving his basic training at Farragut, Idaho. He was assigned to serve on the minesweeper USS Daring AM-87. He served as the ships electrician, machinist mate 1st class. Shirley experienced battle at Iwo Jima, Tinian, New Guinea, the Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. After the battle of Okinawa the USS Daring rescued many aviators from downed B-29's returning from bombing runs on Japan. Shirley was returning to Mare Island, naval base near San Francisco to prepare for the invasion of Japan when WWII ended.
Shirley contemplated a career in the Navy but eventually returned to Payson and civilian life and for a few years after the war enjoyed the life of a single returning serviceman by hunting and fishing and dating; mostly in that order.
That changed when Shirley met Helen Jean Steele at a local school dance. The brunette with the outgoing personality had stolen his heart. Helen was the last woman he ever dated. On September 9th, 1950 Shirley and Helen were married at the Goshen LDS Ward building. On June 25th, 1952 that marriage was made eternal in the Manti, Utah Temple.
Before his marriage to Helen, Shirley had purchased a large building lot on 400 north in Payson and built for Helen what would be their first and only home; the home was remodeled many times to fit their growing family. Shirley and Helen eventually fit seven children into that home.
Shirley's first job after the Navy was upholstering furniture. One day the local Chevrolet dealer, P.E. Ashton asked Shirley if he could also upholster cars. Shirley told him that, "A seat is a seat. I can upholster anything." At that time Shirley had not yet upholstered a car. That changed as he quickly became busiest man in the Chevrolet dealership. Meantime, Shirley wanted to become his own boss and began doing side upholstery in his home garage in Payson; he liked being on his own.
In 1955 Shirley opened his own business in Provo as Shirley Wilson Seat Covers. He operated and was involved with his business until his 78th year.
Though he worked long hours with his hands, he made time for many other adventures. He owned a beautiful palomino mare, named Sugar and joined the Cocklebur Riding Club. He and Sugar participated in many local rodeos including the Ute Stamped. One memorable event was the reenactment of the Pony Express when each rider raced along an original leg of the original express route near Simpson Springs with actual US mail. Shirley also served as president of the Cockleburs and helped produce many Payson rodeos and races.
Shirley liked helping people and his talents were constantly put to work in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He served as a Webelos Cub Scout Leader, Cub Master, Explorer Advisor, counselor in the Elders Quorum, Elders Quorum President, as a counselor in bishoprics and as Bishop. Shirley loved scouting and was thrilled that in his 70s he was asked to once again be a scoutmaster. In 1999 he was awarded the Silver Beaver from the Boy Scouts of America.
Shirley will be remembered for his directness, his generosity and service, his story telling, his gratitude for small things and for his love of life. One of his sons once asked him, 'Dad what is your greatest accomplishment? Shirley thought for a moment than said, "Marrying your mother and raising seven great kids."
Shirley is the last of his siblings to pass through the veil. He was proceeded by twins, Irene (Harold) Thomas and Ilene (Glen) Spencer: Ralph (Gean) Wilson: Edith (Ray) Carter: Darrell (Georgia) Wilson: La Mar (May) Wilson.
Shirley is survived by his 7 children, 32 grandchildren and his 65 great-grandchildren.
The children are: David (Colleen); Dennis (Michelle); Diana (Dan) Steele: Lisa (Terry) Montague: Fran (James) Whitchurch, Douglas (Jill): and Kent.
A viewing will be held Saturday, November 2nd from 9am until 10:30am at the LDS Chapel at 681 East 500 North, Payson. Funeral service will be at 11am. Interment will be in the Payson City Cemetery.